According to the American Dental Association, you should be cleaning your child’s mouth even before they have teeth. You should also start flossing their teeth as soon as they have two that are touching. Of course, this is often easier said than done as many children dislike brushing and flossing. Some parents have resorted to counterproductive tactics like bribing the children to get them to clean their teeth. As any general dentist will tell you this is obviously not an effective long-term solution, especially when they are bribed with candy and other sweet treats. So what are you to do? What are some ffective methods for getting your children to adopt good dental hygiene habits? Consider the following:
• Start Good Oral Hygiene Habits Early
Some of the resistance to brushing and flossing can stem from that fact that they are unfamiliar activities. If children have not gotten accustomed to doing these things from their earliest years, they will be strange and uncomfortable experiences when they are forced to start later on. Even before they start growing their first teeth, you should make sure to start a routine of gum cleaning to help them get into the habit of cleaning their mouth daily.
• Set an Example
One way for you to set the right example is to brush and floss at the same time as your child. By brushing and flossing with your child, you make cleaning teeth a family event while also demonstrating the best ways to brush and floss. You should also remember that until about age six, most children will not have the coordination to handle the task on their own and will need help. Most will require some form of supervision up until about age eight.
• Select the Right Toothpaste/Dental Floss
The toothpaste that adults use may be too harsh for children. Choosing a toothpaste specifically for children may encourage them to brush regularly. Similarly, a softer and more pliable dental floss may be more comfortable on your child’s gums. Since many children complain that flossing is painful or uncomfortable, the softer dental floss may help to ease the discomfort and encourage them to floss. Floss picks are another option that may be helpful. There are kid-friendly floss picks that come in bright colors; these may be easier for a child to hold and to manipulate. If possible, you should allow your child to choose the floss or toothpaste that they want; there are numerous flavors of each available. Having this choice may help to make brushing and flossing more enjoyable for them.
• Measure Their Progress
Putting up a chart in the bathroom that allows your kids to note each time they brush and floss can serve as a reminder. You can find charts online and print them out or you can make your own. These charts may consist of a day of the week along with a box or a line so that the child can make a check mark or affix a sticker.
• Reinforce the Habit
With enough encouragement, a child can acquire the habit of brushing and flossing regularly. However, positive reinforcement is essential as with the instilling of any good habit. You should be sure to offer praise when your child flosses correctly and consistently.
• Keep Checking
You should not stop checking up on your child just because they appear to be doing things correctly. Without your oversight, they may stop brushing and flossing. It is your responsibility as a parent to make sure that your child is maintaining their oral hygiene routine. Just like adults, kids can get gingivitis if they do not observe proper dental hygiene. Note that constant exposure to sodas, candy and other sugar-filled food items can put children at a high risk of developing cavities and gum disease. By encouraging them to acquire good habits early on, you can ensure that your child has a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.