Teaching children the importance of dental care can be challenging when the world is full of tempting sweets, and your child is full of boundless energy that does not want to stop for tooth brushing. Yet, you know that proper oral hygiene includes habits that will ensure your child enjoys a beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime. Fortunately, you can use these simple techniques to make dental care an opportunity for fun and learning that does not feel like a chore.
Model Good Behavior
Kids love mimicking their parents, and you can use this natural interest in everything you do to your advantage. Try setting your child’s toot brushing station next to yours, and cheerfully brush your teeth together in the morning. Make positive comments about an upcoming dental visit, and talk about how you choose certain foods because they are better for your teeth. As you share your views on dental care, your child will naturally begin to take on your behaviors.
Conduct an Experiment
When you tell a child that certain foods and drinks will lead to cavities, it can be hard for them to visualize. Yet, a simple science experiment can pique your child’s natural curiosity and make a strong visual point that will not be forgotten. Simply take two eggs, and allow one to be coated in fluoride toothpaste for 24 hours. Next, place both eggs into separate containers filled with dark soda. Remember to label which container holds the fluoride-coated egg. Then, change the solution twice a day, and have your child track the changes each day. Over time, the untreated egg shell will begin to deteriorate and darken. While the fluoride-treated egg will also begin to stain, the changes will be slower and provide a solid example of why fluoride treatments at the dentist are important for protecting their teeth.
Start Dental Visits Early
According to South Temple Dental, a Salt Lake City dentist, a child should have their first dental visit within six months of their first tooth erupting. While most children will not have a problem with their teeth during this time, starting dental visits early can provide an opportunity for them to be comfortable with their dentist. During these early visits, your dentist can also educate you on the best ways to encourage good oral health habits throughout childhood. As your child matures, they can also reinforce your lessons regarding how to properly brush and floss their teeth.
Make Dental Care Fun
There are many products on the market today that can make your child look forward to taking care of their teeth. Look for light-up toothbrushes, musical timers and flavored toothpastes that can add an element of excitement to what can sometimes be a boring daily routine. If your child struggles with hitting all of their teeth, then ask your dentist about special dye tablets that can highlight plaque and tarter with color. Sticker charts and non-food rewards can also provide incentive for children to take care of their teeth.
Plan Age-Appropriate Lessons
Children learn best through kid-friendly education methods, and family dentists often use puppets with large mouths and teeth to model proper tooth brushing. Take a cue from the professionals, and have your preschooler brush their favorite stuffed animal’s teeth before they do their own. Books and movies about dental care can also emphasize the importance of dental care. For older children and teens, try using smartphone apps to track their tooth brushing habits, and address new dental needs as they arise such as by showing pictures of what happens when braces are removed if a person has not practiced good oral hygiene.
Although your child may groan at the prospect of brushing their teeth, it is important to remember that these early experiences set the tone for their future dental health. Help them stay on track by making dental care a positive experience that will help foster lifelong oral health habits.