How to Create Good Oral Health Habits for your Kids?
How to prevent tooth decay for your children
Even though tooth decay is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases, it’s entirely preventable. How? Tooth decay is preventable with proper oral hygiene. The earlier your child starts to practice good oral hygiene, the faster they will acquire the habits of good oral health care. It’s important for caregivers and parents to help kids learn and practice good oral health habits at home. The intent to instill good oral health habits in your kids will pay off now and in the future as your children enjoy a lifetime of good oral health.
How Do You Establish Good Oral Hygiene Habits with Kids?
According to the “State of Little Teeth Report” from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), nearly one in five children under the age of 5 have experienced tooth decay. While these numbers are concerning for sure, good dental habits and regular dental visits starting by age 1 (or when the first teeth pop through the gums) can slow or reverse the tooth decay process in children.
Just like any other new habit, repetition is key when establishing good oral health habits in kids. Here are some helpful tips to help you make good oral hygiene a habit in your home:
- Wipe your infant child’s gums with a clean cloth two times a day before teeth breakthrough. Once teeth come in, it’s time to start brushing them every morning and evening with a soft, small-bristled brush.
- Children should visit the dentist no later than their first birthday (or as soon as teeth break through gums).
- Parents or caregivers need to monitor tooth brushing and flossing with children 6 years of age and younger. Kids this age should only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- It’s important to show children how to brush along the gum line of their teeth to keep gums healthy.
- Make sure your child has mastered tooth brushing before expecting them to be proficient at flossing. Focus on one thing at a time until they get it down. Typically, children under the age of ten will still need help flossing.
- Model good oral health habits yourself. As with so many things in parenting, kids will act like you before they will do what you say. Make sure you model good oral health habits by brushing twice a day and flossing.
- Make sure to buy toothpaste with fluoride, fluoride has proven to have good effects on your teeth.
- Ask your child’s dentist if they would recommend dental sealants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), applying dental sealants to the molars prevents 80% of cavities.
7 Ways to Motivate your Children to Practice Good Oral Health Habits
Who doesn’t need a little motivation to help gain valuable life habits? Sometimes knowing the negative consequences of not taking care of your teeth isn’t enough motivation to keep brushing. Here are some tips to give you kids a little extra nudge in the direction of good oral health habits:
- Let your child pick out a new toothbrush (every three months) and select their toothpaste from your approved selection.
- Rewards! Implement a star chart or another reward system to motivate your child to brush in the morning and at night (no candy or sugary treats as rewards).
- Stories! Share a tale of tooth-fighting glory while helping your children brush their teeth. Maybe as you brush, you are on an adventure to fight pesky plaque or are looking for cavity bugs. Let your imagination inspire you!
- Make brushing a family affair! A family that brushes together has good oral hygiene habits together.
- Who wouldn’t want to brush their teeth when you do it to music? Whether it’s a dance party or a song you play from this playlist that’s all about brushing your teeth, music can make the time fly. They are almost all about 2 minutes long which is the perfect amount of time to be sure your teeth are clean.
- Use technology! There are many apps available that make brushing your teeth fun and ensure you hit the 2-minute recommended mark for brushing.
- Set a two-minute timer. Make it a challenge to keep brushing until the timer goes off!
The Egg Experiment Helps Get Kids to Brush their Teeth
Sometimes it’s easier (and more effective) to show rather than tell when it comes to getting children to care about their oral health. That’s where the egg experiment comes in. This simple experiment demonstrates to your kids the benefits of healthy eating and regular brushing.
Tooth enamel, the hard outer part of your teeth, is similar to the hard outer shell of an egg. Even though they aren’t exactly the same:
- Eggshells are made mostly from calcium carbonate; tooth enamel is composed mostly of carbonate
- Both tooth enamel and eggshells have color ranging from light yellow to white
- The eggshell protects the egg just like tooth enamel protects the pulp (nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue)
What You Need for the Egg Experiment
- Hard-boiled egg
- Can of dark cola (Coke, Pepsi)
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Put the hard-boiled egg in the cup.
- Cover the egg with cola. Let the egg sit in the cola for one day.
- After the egg sits in a cola bath for one day, have your child take it out and examine it.
- Add fluoride toothpaste to the toothbrush and brush the egg.
Option #2: Another version of this experiment adds a second cup filled with milk or water. Fill one cup with the soda as instructed above and then fill another with milk or water to compare what happens to the egg after being submerged in the different liquids for a day.
Discussion and Learning
After your child sees the way brushing can wash away the brown film left on the egg by the cola, discuss these topics:
- After your child sees the way brushing can wash away the brown film left on the egg by the cola, discuss these topics.
- Why do you think the egg changed color (in the cola cup)? Did the egg in the milk or water cup change color?
- After we eat or drink sugary things, a sticky coating called plaque forms on our teeth.
- Plaque leads to cavities if we don’t brush it away.
- Our teeth can be stained by the things we drink and eat.
- What do you think brushing does for our teeth?
- Brushing and flossing help remove food, sugar, and bacteria from our teeth.
Don’t despair dads, moms, and caregivers! It WILL take time before your kids establish good oral hygiene habits, but with a consistent effort, it will happen (eventually). Another important task you can take care of to ensure a lifetime of oral health for your children is to schedule their dental checkup and cleaning today. Request an appointment online today!