Making sure your children develop healthy oral hygiene habits that last is just as important as teaching them the correct brushing and flossing techniques. Here are some tips and ideas for helping kids develop a healthy dental hygiene routines.
Stating the brushing and flossing routine early in life will make it feel like a normal part of your child’s daily life. In fact, cleaning your child’s gums before the primary teeth come in is recommended. Gently wipe them with a damp cloth after each meal. As the teeth begin to erupt, you can start brushing them with a baby-friendly toothbrush, and start flossing as soon as there are two teeth next to each other.
Early routines will ensure that your child will have no memory of NOT brushing and flossing on a regular basis, making these habits feel like an inherent part of daily life.
Let them choose their tools
When your child is old enough, let her select her own toothbrush, dental floss and toothpaste. This will give her a sense of personal agency in the process, and inspire her to brush and floss using the tools she picked out herself.
Build a routine
Put aside a two minutes twice a day at a specific time, and devote them exclusively to the family oral hygiene routine. This will show your child that oral hygiene is a priority that is worth a special position in the day.
Use a chart or calendar to track dental hygiene goals. Every week (or two weeks, or month) that your child successfully brushes and flosses twice earns a small reward. The reward can be almost anything, from a sticker, or an extra half hour of play time before bed, to a slumber party with friends or a trip to the movies, depending on the goals reached (and your patience!)
This provides your child with a tangible goal to work toward, and creates an incentive for maintaining healthy habits in the long term (if simply having healthy teeth and gums isn’t quite enough to convince them!).
Stay on top of your own routine
You've probably noticed that kids love to mimic mom and dad. Let your kids see that your oral hygiene routine is an important part of your day that you are committed to maintaining. They’ll want to do the same!
Let the older kids help
Enlist the help of the resident big brother or sister. Ask the older siblings to show the younger ones that brushing and flossing are important to them, and to help them along. After all, doesn't every little kid want to be like the big kids? It may also have the added benefits of renewing your older kids' interest in their own oral hygiene routines!
Be sure to praise your child when he does a good job brushing his teeth. Saying things like, “wow, your chompers are looking utterly dazzling today!” or “my goodness, your breath smells so fresh!” or simply commenting on how proud you are that he’s doing such a wonderful job taking care of his smile, will provide much needed encouragement.