How to Build Healthy Teeth Brushing Habits in Children
Raising little humans can be overwhelming. There are so many details to think about, and sometimes we have to pick our battles. It’s easy to see why teaching good oral hygiene from the start may be overlooked -- many kids don't enjoy brushing their teeth, and no parent loves the battle of getting kids to do it every morning and night.
Here are some helpful hints for setting high standards of home dental care early, so you and your children can avoid at least some of the struggle that is sometimes associated with the morning and nightly routines of brushing teeth, flossing, rinsing and more.
Be an Example
The first thing a parent can do before they try to brush the kid’s teeth is build a habit of brushing teeth in front of your children. Modeling this behavior helps normalize it for kiddos. Children seek to imitate adults and often learn by watching, so parents who brush their teeth in front of their kids help lay the foundation for healthy tooth brushing habits later.
Have 4 Minutes of Fun
Don’t just set a timer and supervise – make brushing twice a day for two minutes an event! If you’re looking for ways to make tooth brushing fun, look into fun timers like hourglasses or silly digital timers that your kids enjoy. Crank up your child’s favorite song and have a two-minute dance party. Videos or brushing apps may also make that time fly by. Making brushing an enjoyable experience helps add positive reinforcement to this good behavior, as well!
It is important to start oral care at an early age. Learning good oral hygiene habits at a young age is important for long-term oral health. Parents can teach their children how to brush and how to floss by taking some key steps.
Age Appropriate Toothbrushing
Good oral hygiene should begin at an early age. An infant's mouth can be cleaned after each feeding. Begin by cradling the head with one hand while using your free hand to wipe the baby's mouth with a clean wet gauze or wet cloth. A child's teeth should be brushed as soon as the first tooth erupts and parents should only use a smear of toothpaste until age 2.
When teaching your children to brush, parents of children under the age of seven need to ensure they use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and caution them to minimize toothpaste swallowing. Children should spit out and not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
Children should start flossing when tooth surfaces are next to each other. It is important to floss at least once a day. Bacterial plaque can settle between the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay and bad breath. The tongue should also be brushed to remove bacterial plaque. If your child doesn’t like brushing their tongue, there are also tongue scrapers that help remove bacteria and plaque with a little less work.
We recommend you taking the lead in brushing your child’s teeth until they are 8 to 9 years old. At that point, they should have developed the dexterity and maturity to get all the nooks at crannies in the front and back of their mouths. You should still supervise brushing even when they begin to do it themselves.
Don’t Give Up
Long days, missed naps, vacations, and dislike of toothbrushing can disrupt our good oral health routines. Take it in stride and get back on track tomorrow! Your goal is to have your child learn to value brushing as part of their daily routine and get used to it early on.
Our office is always here to help with more tips and tricks to help you have a successful brushing and flossing experience with your child!