When it comes to dental hygiene, teaching your child the importance of it at an early age is crucial in helping them develop healthy, strong teeth as they get older. This means not only teaching them adequate brushing habits, but also ensuring they have proper diet and food intake habits. Without knowledge of these important oral hygiene tips, they are at an increased risk of not only developing cavities as a child, but are also at an increased risk of developing cavities in their permanent teeth. The sooner these habits are taught to children, the more likely they will be to stick to them.
Unfortunately, as all parents know, asking a child to do something – especially brushing or flossing – can sometimes be challenging. There are, however, some strategies that family physician, Dr. Ali Ghahary, recommends trying in order to make it easier (and much more fun) for both the parent and the child.
The first step is to try to avoid giving anything to your child that is known to cause cavities. The most common cavity culprits include chocolate, candies, and sugary beverages such as carbonated soft drinks. Sugar only leads to tooth decay (and can also lead to a number of other health problems), and if your child is less than enthusiastic about brushing then you will only find that your child’s visits to the dentist will increase in frequency and result in more and more fillings being required. The second step is to set a good example. Children are much more likely to pick up on the habits of their parents and other family members (such as siblings), so never hesitate to brush or floss your teeth in front of your child. Thirdly, if they are old enough to understand, talk to your child about the core basics of oral health – such as brushing and flossing twice a day, talking to them about why sugar is bad for them, as well as letting them know why it’s important for them to see their dentist for regular exams.
Good dental hygiene doesn’t have to be something your child dreads. It can be turned into a game, too. For example, let your child practice brushing teeth on their favourite doll or stuffed animal. You can also offer your child rewards for brushing their teeth – for example, taking them to see a movie, going to the playground, buying them a gift, or rewarding them with anything else you think they might enjoy. A reward can often work as an incentive to get your child to brush and floss their teeth. When buying a toothbrush for your child, take them with you and let them choose. Many children’s toothbrushes come in a variety of colours and may even have their favourite cartoon characters printed on them. If they have a toothbrush they like, they will be much more likely to want to use it.
As mentioned, taking your child to the dentist for regular check-ups is necessary to ensure their oral hygiene is where it needs to be. However, just like the doctor’s office, going to see the dentist can be just as scary for a child. One way to prepare your child for a trip to the dentist is to play pretend dentist games at home. Also don’t use words like “needles” and “hurts” to describe dental visits. Instead, tell your child that they are going to the dentist to check their smile and count their teeth. It’s important to keep it simple.