Most parents will agree that children develop a mind of their own at an early age (too early, some would say). Fortunately, many parents quickly learn to pick and choose which issues they should stand firm on. If the child won’t eat their spinach, maybe they’ll try broccoli. If they won’t go to bed at the designated hour, maybe a promise of “story time” will get them into their pajamas earlier. But when it comes to brushing and flossing, the threat of bacterial growth, gum disease, and tooth decay should be all any parent needs to understand the value of creating good oral care habits at an early age. The trick to making it stick with strong-willed children is in how you approach these beneficial teachings and habits.
The American Dental Association (ADA) suggests that a child have their first dental checkup by the time they turn one. By the time a child is two years of age, they should be able to brush and floss with minimal supervision and assistance. Brushing with a pea-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste only on a soft-bristle toothbrush is recommended for those two and older because the fluoride in toothpaste can be harmful if swallowed, and two-year-olds should be able to spit after brushing. So, once your child is over the age of two, they should be ready to begin learning to take care of their own teeth. This is where the fun begins!
The first (and most important) step in encouraging your child to brush and floss regularly is to lead by example. Children often mimic the behavior of their parents. How many times have you seen a child push an adorable plastic lawn mower around the yard behind a parent who is mowing the lawn in the summer? There’s no reason a parent shouldn’t make a display of brushing and flossing their teeth. In fact, it’s a good idea to start brushing and flossing as a family together. Make it a daily (or twice daily) activity. Let your children see that brushing can be a fun, healthy family event – not a playtime disruption or a chore. And if done often and correctly, everyone in the house will begin to benefit from regular oral care. There’s nothing wrong with that!
Another good bit of advice is to educate your children about food debris, sugars, bacteria, plaque and tooth decay. “Sticky stuff sticks to our teeth. It gets all gummy and yucky and can hurt our teeth. We don’t want that. Let’s brush it all away!” Let them form an understanding of why we brush and floss our teeth each day. And to make sure they have a solid grasp on the reasons behind the oral care process, let them demonstrate with a toy toothbrush on one of their favorite stuffed animals.
Another good piece of advice that brings a little more fun into the oral care process is to let your child pick out their own tooth brush and toothpaste. Obviously, there is something to be said for letting them choose from a pre-selected group of ADA-accepted toothbrushes and toothpastes (you can see those lists by clicking here), but most parents will find that there are a great number of cartoon-character-themed toothbrushes and toothpastes that will delight young children and make them feel more comfortable about the regular brushing process.
All in all, good oral care habits are best formed as early as possible. If you’re concerned about how your child is responding to brushing and flossing, the best thing you can do is get involved and make the process as easy and educational as possible. Teaching your child to brush and floss correctly at an early age may create a mindset for good oral care that stays with them for a lifetime.
If you would like to make an appointment at Watts Family Dental for a dental cleaning or an oral screening, please call (913) 338-3384 or visit our Overland Park, KS family dental office. You may also send an e-mail direct to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time. Because we’re committed to healthy smiles for the whole family, our patients come to us from Overland Park, Leawood, Lenexa, and Olathe, Kansas. We’d love to see your family too!