How to Raise Good Teeth Brushers

By Premier Dental of Ohio

kids cavity prevention

Tips for Motivating Kids to Develop Good Brushing Habits

Teaching your children to take great care of their teeth sets them up for a lifetime of healthy habits.  We know that sometimes it can be a battle when your children are young, but you can rest assured that it is worth the fight!  You can also remember that we, as dental professionals, have your back.  You need only bring your child in for a dental visit if you need any reinforcement!

Start as Early as Possible

Good oral hygiene is a habit that can be difficult to start after your child is old enough and big enough to resist you.  You literally have to start forming the habit when they are babies.  As soon as the first tooth appears in your child’s mouth, usually one of the lower front teeth, it requires cleaning.  Your job as a parent is to “brush” even the smallest, newest tooth that protrudes from the gums.  We put the word brush in parentheses because technically, removing plaque from your baby’s teeth does not require an actual toothbrush.  You can remove the plaque with a soft washcloth.

It is important to remove plaque from the teeth at every age. In addition to plaque removal, another important aspect of starting oral hygiene so early is to help your child accept and become accustomed to an oral hygiene routine.  A baby who understands that allowing mommy or daddy to clean his teeth becomes a toddler who is much more willing to lay down in a lap for a thorough brushing when all the teeth appear.  Cleaning the teeth should become a part of everyone’s bedtime routine as early as possible.

If your child is already past the baby stage, start now.  The sooner you begin building the habit, the better.  Children thrive under consistently performed tasks.  Typically, they will only fight you as long as they think they can win!  Showing them that this is a new part of the nighttime routine without any exceptions may take time, but it is worth it in the long run.

Oversee Oral Hygiene at Every Stage

Pediatric dentists recommend that your child should not perform oral hygiene unsupervised until he can tie his own shoelaces and write his name in cursive.  These milestones occur at different ages in different kids, which is why we do not set a specific age for brushing and flossing without parental supervision.

It takes children a while to develop the manual dexterity necessary to properly clean their teeth. By exhibiting the ability to tie shoes and write in cursive, a child shows that he has probably developed the hand skills necessary for good brushing and flossing.

Until that time, it is essential for a parent to oversee the oral hygiene routine at bedtime.  Children often perform a pitiful version of brushing and skip flossing altogether.  You can check their plaque removal skills with a cool tool called disclosing tablets. Your child chews them, and they dye plaque hot pink or purple, making it easy for both you and the child to see.

Even teenagers with great dexterity will require some supervision, mainly in the form of accountability.  They need frequent reminders about keeping up with good oral hygiene.

Use Age-Appropriate Reinforcement

Praising your child for great oral hygiene and a cavity-free checkup at the dentist is always a great idea!  For younger children, a chore chart with stickers may be a great incentive.  Teenagers would probably prefer a little extra gas money or bonus on their allowance for getting a good report from the dentist and dental hygienist.

Because you know your child’s best motivators, you can select a method that provides the greatest incentives to help her want to take care of her teeth.

Recruit the Dentist’s & Dental Hygienist’s Help

We know . . . sometimes your child needs to hear it from someone besides Mom.  We have got your back!

Each dentist and dental hygienist at Premier Dental of Ohio places a high priority on preventing dental diseases, and we understand our role in providing the right education to each of our patients.  We take time to explain and demonstrate the proper techniques to every patient.  We also customize our instructions for each individual’s specific needs and risk factors.  If you have a difficult-to-reach area that is collecting a large amount of plaque, we will show you how to get to it and clean it!

Your dentist or dental hygienist may even be able to have a conversation with your child about how much it costs to fix a cavity.  Equating the cost of dental treatment to those new headphones they want or a cool gaming system may help them see the value in preventing dental problems.

Show Examples of Dental Disease

Maybe your child has no idea how bad dental disease can be.  You can search Google images for photos of cavities and gum disease.  Appealing to vanity when your kids are reaching the age that they worry about appearance is a useful tactic.  Everyone wants a beautiful smile, and a beautiful smile takes effort!

It is also important for your children to understand that dental diseases do not just lead to ugly cavities and swollen gums.  They also cause bad breath, and in severe cases, extreme pain!

Set a Good Example

As a parent, you have to practice what you preach.  If you want your children to develop great oral hygiene habits at home, you have to practice them yourself.  We often recommend making the nighttime routine a family affair.  Bring your kids into the master bathroom, and swish, brush, and floss together!  You can play music and make it a fun family activity.

The same goes for your own dental visits.  By keeping up with consistently scheduled visits, showing little anxiety, and receiving your own good reports from the dentist, your children will learn that it is simply a normal part of a healthy lifestyle.

More Questions about Your Children and Their Oral Hygiene?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a visit with a pair of our wonderful dentists and dental hygienists.  We love helping the entire family protect their beautiful smiles.

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