How to Teach a Child Good Oral Hygiene

One of the most difficult tasks parents have is getting their kids to appreciate good oral hygiene. Brushing teeth has long been the cause of innumerable bedtime fights - and trips to the dentist are often fought tooth-and-nail. Adults know the consequences of such disregard. Even so, it can be troublesome relaying that to a younger audience. Here are a few tips to help parents educate their kids and prepare them for a life of great dental health.

Children and even some adults don’t see the value in protecting baby teeth from cavities. At Kids Dental Care center, we know how difficult it can be to express the importance of pediatric oral health. Contact us today to speak with a representative. Our pediatric dental office in Chandler, AZ is ready to take your call and share our insights on helping to teach a child to practice good oral hygiene.

Small Teeth, Big Problems

Every adult knows it’s the nature of baby teeth to fall out. Your child’s teeth are there to help them chew food as they grow. Since our mouths get bigger as we age, it makes sense that smaller teeth would make way for larger ones. In a sense they are disposable, so many parents and children feel it’s a waste of time caring for temporary teeth.

Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Oral hygiene is just as important for babies and toddlers, and improper care can lead to some bad problems down the road. There are a number of reasons why parents and kids should take special care of their baby teeth, such as:

  • Pain while chewing
  • Aching teeth
  • Sore and swollen gums
  • Embarrassment from unattractive smiles
  • Bad breath/Halitosis 
  • Speech development issues

Worst of all, a decaying tooth can affect the underlying dentition. Bacteria that cause cavities may spread to the adult teeth as they grow, damaging those permanent replacements before they even see the light of day. Teeth lost to weakness or decay may also leave spaces that promote overcrowding in your child’s mouth as others slide to fill gaps, leaving little room for new ones to erupt.

The Snack Attack

There are some steps you can take to start children down the road to better oral care before they even start brushing. The foods kids eat have a lot to do with their dental development, and regulating their diet is a great way to help keep their mouths healthy. Some foods to keep an eye on include:

  • Sodas and dark colas
  • Sugary drinks like juice
  • Hard candies
  • Gummies and dried fruits
  • Citrus fruits with high acidity
  • Energy and sports drinks
  • Popcorn, crackers, and chips

Consuming foods high in sugars helps the bacteria that cause tooth decay to grow quickly. Soft drinks that are high in sugars are even worse culprits since liquids can easily find their way between and around teeth, coating them with a sticky sweetness. Gummies, crackers, and dried fruits can also get stuck onto teeth as well, providing a feast for bacterial growth.

Try offering snacks to kids that help to strengthen their teeth and gums instead. Cheese is a great pick, especially older varieties such as cheddar and swiss. They provide calcium for strong bones and dentition while helping to keep kids feeling full. Vegetables are another great option since stringy fibers help to scrub teeth with every bite. Just make sure they aren’t too cold since carrots and some other veggies can get very dense and might even chip a tooth!

When to Start

The best time to begin paying attention to a child’s oral health is when they get their first tooth. Brushing and cleaning dentition lets kids get used to the idea that teeth need to be cleaned. Creating this association young will help them to associate it with a daily routine, and as they grow it may turn into a habit.

Baby teeth are more susceptible to cavities than adult ones. There is not a lot of enamel protecting their fragile interior thanks to smaller sizes. They also have a less complex root system to help facilitate falling out as new teeth come in. Make sure you keep a close eye on them as they develop, and note any discoloration of brown spots. Let your child’s dentist know if any irregularities appear.

A great way to prevent cavities in babies and toddlers is to ensure they aren’t snacking or eating off-schedule. Although convenient, giving a baby access to their bottle in their crib invites tooth decay. Since children won’t be cleaning their mouths after finishing a meal, their mouths are still full of cavity-including sugars and other food particles. Avoid testing bottles in your own mouth as well. Tooth decay is communicable, and you wouldn’t want to introduce decay-causing bacteria into your child’s mouth.

Teaching Tactics

Convincing older children that brushing is beneficial may be a more difficult challenge than helping toddlers value their teeth. Since kids test their boundaries almost constantly, avoiding bedtime brushing often develops as a point of contention. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to help kids get back on the right track.

  • Family Flossing (and brushing): Show your kids how much you value your teeth and they will almost definitely follow suit. Take the time to do it right, showing proper technique and how to use flossers, transforming bedtime into a fun little family moment.
  • Tasty Toothpaste: Minty fresh breath may be a major reason why adults want to keep a clean mouth, but kids might not find the thought of coating their teeth with the flavor of candy canes. Luckily, there are quite a few taste options to choose from, and children will gravitate towards brushing with watermelon, berry or even bubblegum flavors.
  • Beautiful Brushes: Another great way to get your kids invested in cleaning their teeth is to choose an exciting toothbrush. From fun shapes to vibrating heads, there are a plethora of varieties to choose from. Flossers also come in interesting shapes and styles which are sure to grab your kid’s attention. As an added incentive, give them a chance to choose for themselves!
  • Tantalizing Timers: According to the American Dental Association, people should be brushing for two minutes, twice a day. Having a timer on-hand will help kids get the amount of brushing they need for a clean, healthy smile. Egg timers and two-minute hour glasses are both fun and also let kids take charge of the task themselves.
  • Dentition Dancing: Make brushing fun with special songs about healthy teeth, or even just favorite tunes to listen to while brushing. Using music as a substitute timer or learning tool is a great way to build lifelong habits.
  • Enamel Education: Children value different things for different reasons. One way to teach a child to practice good oral hygiene is to teach them the value of their teeth. Use games, toys and activities to help kids learn more about and value their chompers, especially that brushing can help them have a great smile as they grow.
  • Rewarding Repetition: While it’s better that children learn proper dental hygiene because it’s the healthy thing to do, sometimes “the right thing” just isn’t a great motivator. In these cases, kids might respond better to rewards associated with brushing. Extra phone or game time is a great option, as well as prizes for great cavity-free reports from the hygienist!
  • Exciting Experiments: Science classes across the globe have dropped a tooth into a cup of soda just to see the results. Experiments like these can have a great effect on kids since they see damage that poor dental health can cause first-hand in real time. Not only do they help promote great hygiene, they also get in extra science lessons on the fly.

There are a wealth of other possibilities when teaching children how best to care for their teeth. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your child’s dentist to address your primary concerns. Both your doctor and hygienist might have other ideas you haven’t even thought of!

Delight in the Dentist

Perhaps the best way to help teach your children about great oral health is to help them appreciate the dentist. Adults might remember trips to the dentist as anxiety-inducing and filled with trauma. Today, things are much different as a lot of care is taken to make each visit as pain-free and enjoyable as possible, for both kids and adults. Make sure your child is receiving proper care by scheduling biannual visits with a doctor you and your child can trust. This will help kids know there is nothing to fear from good oral hygiene, and that a trip to the dentist can be a great experience.

Trying to teach children to value their teeth is a daunting prospect. At Kids Dental Center, our staff is happy to hear all of your concerns and help guide you in teaching great oral hygiene habits to children. Contact us today and make an appointment with our expert team for a consultation on your child’s dental health today!

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