For both children and adults, dental care is an absolute necessity. Most parents know this, yet they’re consistently struggling to enforce good oral hygiene habits in their children. Luckily, there are plenty of creative ways to get your children to take proper care of their teeth — pulling it off just takes a bit of patience and persistence.
Worldwide, 60% to 90% of school-age children have cavities. But instilling positive dental habits in your children from a young age ensures that they will continue them through adulthood. Here are some unique ways to help your children form healthy habits when it comes to oral hygiene.
Good oral hygiene practices can help prevent gum disease by removing plaque and bacteria that can cause inflammation and infection in the gum. When this is neglected, there’s a chance for sugar bugs to develop. “Sugar bugs” is a colloquial term used to refer to the bacteria in the mouth that thrive on sugar and other carbohydrates. These bacteria produce acid as they break down the sugar, which can lead to tooth decay over time. If you want to learn more about sugar bugs, this Serenity Kids post extensively explains it.
Make brushing and dental care a family activity
If you make an effort to get the family together to brush their teeth twice a day, it will quickly become an event that your children look forward to. Young children will always embrace an opportunity for special attention and family time, so making dental care an activity the whole family can enjoy will help to make those habits second nature.
Children are more likely to engage in activities that they find fun. You can make brushing and flossing more enjoyable by using colorful toothbrushes and toothpaste with fun flavors. You can also make a game out of brushing and flossing to make it more interactive and engaging for children. More importantly, children are more likely to adopt healthy habits if they see adults doing it too. Brush and floss your teeth alongside your children to show them the importance of oral hygiene.
Develop a reward system
It’s no surprise that children respond well to the idea of a reward system, and it’s easier than you think to implement one that prioritizes dental care while making it fun. You’ll have to use your imagination to determine the specifics, but the possibilities are virtually endless. If you’re still struggling for ideas, Colgate has a practical suggestion:
“If your child enjoys working toward a big prize, then try a reward chart. Award your child a sticker each time he cleans his teeth properly or, if he’s younger, sits nicely to have his teeth cleaned. Make sure you award the sticker right after a successful teeth cleaning session. When your child reaches a certain number of stickers, give him a reward, such as a new toy or a trip to a favorite local attraction. If your child is old enough, he could choose his own treat to work toward.”
Keep in mind, this can also apply to dental visits. Many children are less than enthusiastic about going to the dentist, even though they should be making visits every six months. Don’t be afraid to treat them to a family movie night or a trip to the park to acknowledge and reinforce their good behavior.
Make some music
Children and adults alike should be brushing their teeth for two full minutes, so putting on one of your child’s favorite songs is bound to make the time fly by. If you’re feeling particularly musically inclined, take it one step further by writing a song, singing, or playing an instrument that will entertain your child for at least a full two minutes and help them get comfortable with their dental care routine. Almost any activity becomes enjoyable when you incorporate the endless possibilities of music.
You can also create a playlist of songs children can listen to while brushing and flossing. This can add an element of fun and excitement to the process. Encourage them to sing and dance to the songs; this can help to make the process more interactive and enjoyable for children.
Ultimately, it’s important to do all that you can to enforce healthy oral hygiene habits in your children. According to an AACD survey, virtually all adults (99.7%) surveyed believe a healthy smile is socially important, and it’s medically important as well. Getting involved, being as proactive as you can, and serving as a role model are the best ways to help your children understand that dental care is an absolute priority and will remain one for the rest of their lives.