It can be difficult to teach children the importance of oral hygiene. In fact, it seems they’ll avoid any habit if they have suspicion that it’s good for them. But learning proper brushing and flossing techniques is essential for healthy teeth and gums, and kids who don’t learn these skills are at risk for tooth decay, gingivitis, plague and other oral complications down the road. Here are a couple tips to teach good oral hygiene habits to kids.
Lead by example: Kids learn through observation, so one of the most effective ways of teaching them good oral hygiene is for parents to practice it. Children emulate parents’ behaviors, and watching you brush and floss every night will instill the importance of these habits. Apart from promoting good dental health, observing parents gives children a sense of maturity, responsibility and independence. Who knew that such a small act could provide such a big opportunity for development?
Make it entertaining: Kids will enjoy brushing and flossing their teeth more if it’s entertaining. For example, you could invent short stories while you’re all brushing your teeth. Or, find a two-minute song that you can sing while brushing your teeth. If children connect proper oral hygiene with fun, it’ll be a better experience for them.
Set up a reward system: Brushing teeth should not be an option—children need to learn early that it’s mandatory and necessary to keep teeth healthy. That said, positive reinforcement makes it less terrible for both parties involved. One method of reward could involve a sticker chart—kids earn a sticker for each time they brush and floss. Once the chart is filled with stickers, they get a prize.
The tools of the trade: Kids are often fascinated by the newest, brightest and best technologies on the market, so emphasizing the cool features of a new toothbrush may stoke an enthusiasm for oral care. Does your kid like a certain superhero or cartoon character? Chances are good that there’s a toothbrush with your kid’s favorite design. Also, kids love electric toothbrushes because they feel and behave more like toys. The same idea applies to a water flosser over regular floss. Children are endlessly fascinated with new toys and technologies, so anything that plays into that will promote their interest in dental health.
Do it yourself: Of course, some very young kids don’t have the physical dexterity or fortitude to get their teeth as clean as an adult. In some cases, brushing your child’s teeth for them is the only way to ensure healthy teeth, at least until they’re old enough to handle a toothbrush on their own.
Teaching a child to care for their teeth is no easy task, but it beats the anxiety of a preventable dentist visit. Just remember that teaching through encouragement is much better than instilling fear. If a child associates oral care with threats or fear of going to the dentist, it’s less likely that they’ll develop adverse feelings toward brushing and flossing.