How to Instill Good Oral Health Habits in Children
Habits — both good and bad — often begin at an early age. They can be defined as recurring, mostly unconscious patterns of behavior, which are acquired by frequent repetition. Wouldn't it be nice if you could start your children off with good, healthy ones? When it comes to oral health, you can!
Practicing good oral hygiene is actually one of the easier habits to instill. The time to start is when your baby's teeth first begin to appear. To clean them, wipe gently with a clean, damp washcloth. Starting at age 2, when more teeth have appeared, you should establish a brushing routine using just a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
In the toddler years, a child-size soft toothbrush with a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste will do the trick. By this time, they should have also put away their pacifiers and stopped sucking thumbs. Continual thumb-sucking past this age can lead to later problems with tooth and jaw development.
Kids soon get used to the feel of gentle brushing, and gradually begin taking over the job. However, they may need help until they're 6 or older, and have gained more manual dexterity. Don't forget to show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth along the gum line, as well as across the biting surfaces of the teeth.
You'll have to periodically confirm whether they did a good tooth-brushing job — but you can also teach them to check their own work. There are over-the-counter products that identify bacterial plaque by turning it a bright color, making it easy for you and your children to see how efficiently they have removed plaque. Another less precise way is to just have them run their tongue over their teeth: If the teeth feel nice and smooth, they're probably clean too. If not, it's back to the sink...
Eating healthy foods, getting moderate exercise, and avoiding sugary snacks between meals are a few more beneficial habits you can foster in your children. As parents, you can set a positive example by doing these things yourselves. The professionals in our office are ready to help you learn, practice and promote these healthy habits.
If you would like more information about instilling good oral health habits in your children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”