Is one of your new years resolutions better health? What about your oral health as part of your overall well-being? Or your children’s oral health? It is imperative to establish healthy habits in your children, of any kind, from early on to be able to maintain them for life. By introducing children to the correct way of tooth brushing, flossing and taking care of their teeth and mouths, they will generally grow up seeing oral health care as an easy and fun way to establish a confident smile.
1. Your baby’s teeth
Before your baby’s first tooth comes through at about 6 months after birth, you should clean their gums with a moist gauze or cloth. After the first tooth comes through, you should use a very soft bristled, child appropriate tooth brush, to brush their teeth. At this stage, toothpaste is not required as the baby will swallow instead of spitting it out.
2. Tell, show & demonstrate
Have your young child make open mouth faces on the mirror to start developing awareness of how clean, or not, their teeth are. Show them where food is stuck before they brush, and how clean their teeth are after brushing their teeth, gums and the tongue. Demonstrate to them, on the mirror, the correct way of brushing their teeth.
3. Gradually handover
From their third birthday, your child starts to develop the manual dexterity to brush and spit out. At this stage, most will have a full set of their deciduous teeth. You can now start to gradually hand over the responsibility of keeping their own mouth clean. Pea sized amounts of children’s toothpaste can be placed on the toothbrush and encourage the children to spit out. Encourage the child to have their teeth cleaned twice a day.
4. Model good dental habits
Children learn by copying what they have observed. Invite your child to watch you brushing your teeth and tongue, and flossing. When you are done, flash a big smile on the mirror and say your mouth feels fresh and clean.
5. The value of good nutrition
What a child eats and drinks also significantly impacts their oral health. Instead of constantly portraying sugary foods and drinks as ‘bad’, encourage ‘good’ healthy foods and water. It helps to mainly have healthy snacks available for them during the day, and in their school lunch boxes.
6. Dental visits
Always talk about the dental visit in positive terms, your own personal unpleasant experiences, if any, should not be mentioned as it models their behaviour. Talk about the friendly staff, the cool chair they get to sit on. Ensure that the child views dental cleans as part of a normal dental visit. Some procedures are not enjoyable, and these should be viewed as an exception, not the rule to associate dental visits.
7. Share the excitement of all their visits.
Announce the good news about your child’s dental visit to your friends and family. Be it a great check up or excellent behavior during treatment. It may even be worth it to take a picture of them being fantastic at the dentist. It’s all worth sharing to build the child’s confidence. Prime those friends and family members to ensure that they only have positive, raving feedback.