Building healthy oral care habits when your children are young is vital for their developing teeth and gums. While you will have to do it for them when they are small, there are things you can do to make it fun for them as they learn to take over! Begin when they are infants to get them in the habit from the onset. You can clean their mouth by wiping gums with a soft, damp cloth moistened with plain water. When teeth start to come in, use a baby toothbrush and gently clean their teeth, adding a pea-sized dab of toothpaste when they are 12 months. You can use fluoride toothpaste when they are around 24 months, making sure they spit it out.
Copycat: Begin by modeling the tooth-brushing habit for them, either by letting them watch you brush and floss or by making it a family routine. Younger children especially like to mimic, and even more so if you exaggerate your excitement. Parents are their first teachers and role models, and getting in on the fun will rub off on them.
Sing: Young children are motivated by fun and pleasure rather than necessity. They enjoy cute, silly songs so you can make up jingles about fighting the “plaque monsters” or “cavity creatures”.
Rewards: Another motivating element is a rewards chart for brushing every day for at least two minutes. Get a fun timer for them to set, to help them track their “success” and provide simple small rewards for them to look forward to when they have reached their goals.
Choice: You can enlist their help by letting them pick their own toothbrush from the children’s section. There are themed toothbrushes ranging from cartoon characters like Sponge Bob to Mickey Mouse. Be sure they choose a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Toothpaste: Adult toothpastes can sometimes be too strong for children who don’t care for the minty or cinnamon flavors. More kid-friendly flavors can range from strawberry, orange, or bubblegum, and all you need to do is make sure it has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance on the label. This ensures the product is both effective and safe.
Flossing: Flossing should begin once they have at least two teeth with no space between them. You will have to help them floss until they are able, so make flossing easier for them by letting them use hand-held flossers when they are ready. They are easy to use and effective at reaching the molars while your child is still developing their fine motor skills.
Helping your children learn to brush and care for their oral health doesn’t have to be difficult. Instill good habits early for a lifetime of healthy smiles! If you have any questions, or to schedule an appointment, please call the dental team at Dr. Latitia Williams office today at 334.738.3111!