We all want the best for our children, which explains why we work so hard to be sure they’re in good schools, or why we spend so many weeknights and weekends driving them to various sports practices and dance recitals, and chess tournaments. However, knowing how important healthy dental habits also are, parents should be devoting plenty of energy to ensuring their children develop healthy brushing and flossing habits, as well as everything else they do for their kids.
As your Santa Monica family dentist, Dr. Carol E. Follette has a few suggestions for how best to go about doing this.
Six Tips for Establishing Good Dental Habits in Children
1. Start as Infants
If brushing is something a child has always done, they will have no choice but for it to feel like a routine. Babies can develop tooth decay if their teeth aren’t brushed properly, so make sure you’re getting them used to the feeling of a toothbrush in their mouth, even when they’re infants.
2. Teach Proper Technique
There is, of course, a correct way to brush a child’s teeth, and most small children aren’t going to understand this without a great deal of help. Starting at age two or three, parents can begin showing their children how to brush with the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums while moving the brush back and forth in short, tooth-wide strokes. Show them how to get every surface, even if they’re bad at it, and don’t forget the gums and tongue!
3. Don’t Stop Helping Too Early
By the age of four or five, many children will seem to have the hang of it, but the recommendation is to continue helping children brush until they are six or seven years old to make sure they’re not missing anything. They often do miss spots, so don’t abandon helping too early.
4. Make it Routine
Children should be brushing twice a day, so try to set times with them when it becomes routine. We suggest doing this after breakfast before heading to school, and then again at night before bed. This gets them in the habit of knowing when to brush.
5. Limit Sugar Consumption
Kids love sugar, but sugar does not love teeth. That means it’s the parents’ jobs to limit how much sugar their kids are taking in. Giving them a healthy diet is beneficial for many reasons, but starting them early on not craving sugar will have positive long-term impacts on the health of their teeth.
6. Normalize Routine Dental Appointments
Make sure that you get your child in to see Dr. Follette, your Santa Monica mercury-free dentist, the recommended two times per year. The earlier in their lives they go, the more normal it will feel to visit the dentist. This limits their anxiety about the experience and also makes sure they get the twice-annual professional cleanings they need to maintain proper dental health.
If you’re able to manage each of these things, you’ll raise a child that not only values dental health but also understands how to maintain that dental health on their own once they’re old enough to do so. We all want the best for our children, after all, and dental health is certainly an important part of that.