As parents, we all want our children to have the best health possible, including their oral health. However, getting kids engaged in proper dental hygiene can be challenging.
Cavities are rampant among children, with over 40% of kids having cavities by the time they start kindergarten. One of the biggest reasons for this is kids’ consumption of sugary foods and drinks, habits built in them from a young age. According to research, the number of sugary snacks kids consume in a week also varies by state. For instance, parents in Washington need to pay more attention to their kids’ oral hygiene because while it ranks 9th on the list of states where kids eat the lowest sugary food each week, there is still a need for improvement.
As parents and caregivers, we play a pivotal role in shaping our children’s oral health habits. By laying a strong foundation and making dental care fun and engaging, we can set our kids up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.
Here are some tips to get your kids excited about caring for their teeth.
- Choose a Dentist That Doesn’t Make Clinic Visits Scary
Take your child to the dentist by their first birthday or when they get their first tooth – whichever comes first. Regular dental visits help get kids comfortable with the experience and allow the dentist to spot any potential issues early on.
If you are in Lake Stevens in Washington, you can visit Milestone Kids Dentistry, a Pediatric Dental Center in Lake Stevens. Their kid-friendly office and team of pediatric dentists make the experience of clinic visits fun and exciting for kids rather than scary! If you want your kid to continue visiting the dentist regularly, it is important to pick a dental practice that doesn’t scare them away. The skilled dentists at Milestone Kids Dentistry provide comprehensive dental care tailored to each child’s needs.
- Make brushing fun
Brushing doesn’t have to be a boring chore. There are lots of ways to make it fun for kids! Try letting them pick out their special toothbrush in their favorite color or with characters from their favorite cartoons or movies. Stores like Target and Walmart have a great selection of character toothbrushes. In fact, the Lake Stevens Target in Washington just got a new shipment of Lightyear and Encanto brushes that kids love.
You can also turn brushing time into a game by setting a timer and seeing if they can brush all their teeth before the time runs out. Make it more exciting by giving them small rewards like stickers on a chart or little prizes when they complete the full two minutes of brushing. The key is making it an enjoyable activity kids look forward to, not a boring requirement.
- Focus on technique
Proper brushing technique is just as important as using the right toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush in circles at a 45-degree angle. Carefully guide your child as they learn to brush their inner, outer, and chewing surfaces properly. For kids under 7, you should continue brushing their teeth twice daily to ensure all areas are adequately cleaned.
- Lead by example
Children learn best by observing. That’s why it’s important to be a good role model and let your child see you brushing and flossing diligently daily. Take the time to explain what you’re doing and why good oral hygiene is so important for your health. Kids are much more likely to copy these good habits if they see you actively practicing them. You can even make brushing a fun family activity by brushing together to music or taking turns timing each other.
- Use fluoride toothpaste
Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and prevents cavities from forming. Use a fluoride toothpaste approved by your pediatric dentist, and make sure your child spits it out after brushing. For children under 3, only use a tiny smear of toothpaste – about the size of a grain of rice. Kids aged 3-6 can use a pea-sized amount. Carefully monitor them as they brush to ensure they don’t accidentally swallow toothpaste, which can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.
- Make flossing fun
Flossing is critical for removing plaque and food debris between teeth that brushing alone can’t reach. But for little hands, traditional floss can be challenging to use. There are great kid-friendly flossers on the market that make it easier. Look for flossers with handles shaped like animals or cartoon characters to add some fun. You can floss their teeth first to show them how then let them try on their own.
- Limit sugary foods and drinks
Sugar is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to cavities in kids. Limit sugary foods like candy, cookies, cake, and soda. Sticky foods like raisins can also easily get stuck in teeth. Save sweets for occasional treats and avoid constant snacking throughout the day. Opt for healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, cheese sticks, and yogurt. Also, use a straw when drinking sugary beverages to minimize contact with teeth.
- Avoid sharing utensils
Sharing cups and utensils spreads cavity-causing germs between mouths. Establish a clear rule with your kids that they should never share utensils, toothbrushes, cups, water bottles, or anything else that goes in their mouths. This simple habit goes a long way in helping them avoid the germs that cause tooth decay.
9. Prioritize nighttime brushing
Brushing before bed is the most important time of day when it comes to oral health. Cavity-causing bacteria accumulate while sleeping since saliva production drops. Always help your child brush thoroughly before bed, even if they missed the morning brushing.
Establishing good oral hygiene habits from a very young age is crucial for your child’s lifelong dental health. Make brushing and flossing a fun family activity. Lead by example and use kid-friendly products to make home care easier and more engaging.
With the right guidance and creativity, you can get your kids genuinely excited about caring for their teeth. Implementing these tips will give them the tools to enjoy a beautiful, healthy smile for years.