How to Teach Your Children Great Oral Health Habits

oral-health

As a parent, you are responsible for protecting your children and helping them learn skills that will lead them to healthy adulthood. As many of us have experienced, though, it can be difficult to consistently practice constructive habits. For example, despite all the attention paid to New Year’s resolutions, only about 8 percent of adults actually carry through with them.

Here are some tips for making the task of teaching your children great oral health habits easier and possibly more fun.

Helping Kids Learn Good Oral Health Habits

  1. Set a good example. Modeling good oral health behavior yourself goes a long way toward children understanding what is expected and beneficial for them. Brush twice daily, floss every day, and schedule regular dental checkups for yourself and your children.
  2. Help your children use oral care products designed for children. Child-size toothbrushes are easier for small hands to grasp, and children’s toothpaste flavors are sometimes more palatable to little ones.
  3. Don’t instill fear. Children retain positive health habits best when you reward good behavior, such as having no cavities at their latest dental checkup.
  4. It’s OK for oral health time to be entertaining! Singing or playing a song can help children remember to brush for two minutes, or you can explain why brushing and flossing are important by making up a story about the epic struggle of the “good guys” (oral care tools) against the “bad guys” (bacterial plaque). If your child likes watching a special video while brushing, this can be helpful, too.
  5. Create a “habit chain” for brushing and flossing. Reinforce oral health habits by pairing them with something else associated with that part of a child’s day, such as putting on pajamas or listening to a story.
  6. Understand when to transition from helper to coach. Parents should start brushing children’s teeth as the first baby tooth breaks through. By age five or six, some children have the dexterity to brush their teeth thoroughly, although it’s best if a parent continues to supervise oral care time until the child is seven or eight years old.

“Teaching good oral health habits is a long-term task for parents, but the positive benefits can be lifelong for your children,” says Dr. Melanie Bauer, a dentist in practice at Dr. Carol Ford & Associates in central Phoenix.

 

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