According to the Center for Disease Control, 20 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one decayed tooth. Trying to keep your child out of that segment relies on healthy dental habits. Just like potty training, teaching kids dental healthy habits requires patience and a fair amount of strategy. You want to make it fun and encourage them without putting too much pressure on things. Even though inside you are thinking, “Please for the love of all that is holy, just brush your teeth so you can go to bed!” you want to remain relaxed and positive. Here are 7 great ways to teach your child about dental care.
1. STORY TIME
Talk to kids about dental habits in terms they can understand. Instead of trying to explain periodontal disease, talk about how they need to brush the sugar bugs out of their teeth with a toothbrush soldier.
2. CHOOSE A GREAT DENTIST
Having a good experience at the dentist’s office can help children see taking care of their teeth in a positive light. When they love their dentist, they want to take good care of their teeth and are excited to show off their hard work at the next visit. Taking the time to select a dentist who connects with your child will pay off big time.
3. GET THE RIGHT GEAR
Purchasing special kid-friendly toothpaste and toothbrushes can reap big rewards. For a 3-year-old girl, brushing her teeth with an Elsa toothbrush and might just be the magic ticket to tear-free toothbrush time. Pick something mild with bright graphics on the bottle. Steer clear of anything overly minty — kids often interpret a minty tingle as a burning sensation. When it comes to flossing, floss picks might be easier for young fingers to maneuver.
4. LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Kids don’t like to be left out! Brush you teeth alongside your child so they can follow your example and mimic your technique. As you are brushing, point out to them how you are getting the front and back of each tooth as well as brushing your tongue.
5. TIME IT RIGHT
One thing children often struggle with is brushing their teeth for the full two minutes recommended by the American Dental Association. Buy a fun timer to help the time pass more enjoyably. Another fun idea is to turn on your children’s favorite song and tell them to brush their teeth until it is over (or until he 2 minutes is up).
6. START ‘EM YOUNG
Before your child is able to hold a toothbrush, start cleaning what few teeth they have with a silicone finger toothbrush. As with most things when it comes to children, the earlier you start and the more you reinforce a particular behavior with repetition, the easier it will be to stay consistent.
7. OFFER A REWARD
Repeat after me, “I am not above bribing my children to brush their teeth.” There is nothing wrong with giving your kids some incentive to step up their dental game. Start with a tried-and-true sticker chart. Every night that they successfully brush and floss their teeth without whining, give them a sticker. When the chart is filled up, it’s time for a prize! Try to make the prize something non-food if possible, since your little is likely to ask for candy which will counteract all their hard work.