No one wants to get a cavity, and we certainly don’t want our kids to get bad news (or any more bad news!) from their dentist. That’s why you should make these lessons about healthy teeth as important as learning their colors and ABC’s.
The American Dental Association recommends kids see the dentist by their first birthday. By the time they are two, your kids can start brushing on their own to feel independent (though you should do a quick check and help regularly). Don’t wait. Schedule a dentist appointment ASAP and start teaching your kids good brushing habits and flossing early on to make sure they continue for a lifetime (hopefully a cavity-free lifetime!).
Teach them to brush.
If you want your kids to brush for the rest of their life, make brushing and flossing fun! Let them pick out their own toothbrushes, toothpastes, and flossers. Make a chart that your kids can mark each time they brush and floss. Stay with them in the bathroom to make sure they brush (no faking!). Give them incentives (non-sugar) for brushing twice a day—and brushing well.
Floss, floss, floss.
Regular flossing removes plaque which causes tooth decay and cavities (and can prevent gum disease!). Unfortunately, some statistics say that close to 80% of Americans never floss; that doesn’t mean your kids should join them. Find fun-colored flossers at the store, and use a chart to make sure your kids become one of the 20% that floss—and have healthier mouths as a result.
Use technology to make brushing fun.
Most kids love to play on tablets and computers; now it’s time to use that fun to make sure they brush their teeth well. Use these fun videos or download one of these cool apps to make brushing for two minutes fun. You can also set alarms with cool ring tones to remind them to brush twice a day.
Set a healthy hygiene routine, and keep it.
If you want your kids to brush and floss for the long term, make it part of a regular hygiene routine—and do your best to stick to it. We know how easy it is to fall out of routine on the weekends, during summer vacation, and on trips. Try to establish a routine with twice daily brushing and flossing. Create a checklist of things your kids need to do every morning (and evening) with the basic “must do’s,” such as brushing and flossing teeth, changing clothes, etc. Keep everyone watching your kids in the loop about their routine and checklist, such as babysitters and nannies, for a consistent and healthy routine.
Set a good example.
If you want your kids to brush, show them that you do it—and do it well. Brush your teeth twice a day, one of those times with the kids, and floss on a regular basis. Schedule dentists’ appointments regularly, and talk to your kids about why it’s important to visit the dentist. For parents who are normally nervous about a visit to the dentist, seize this opportunity to overcome your fear (we’ve given you tips to overcome your fear of the dentist in this blog post) so your kids don’t pick up on your anxiety.
Pick a good dentist.
If you want your children to want to go to the dentist, be very selective about your dentist. Choose a dentist that is good with kids. It doesn’t have to be a pediatric dentist; a “regular dentist” (for adults and kids) can be their friend and dentist for life. Choose a good dentist (ask your friends for recommendations or check social media reviews) who is a good listener that can answer any questions you have about your kids’ teeth.
Help them want to go the dentist.
If you have a child is worried about going to the dentist, take steps before you go to the dentist to make them feel at ease. Talk to your child about the dentist before you go (and what’s going to happen). Practice the dentist appointment with your child at home to make them more comfortable. Read books about the dentist before you head in, and watch videos about healthy teeth to make them look forward to it.
Don’t miss a cleaning.
When the family calendar gets full, it’s scarily easy to cancel a teeth cleaning—or not schedule one at all. Make sure you schedule a cleaning for you and your kids twice a year, and make sure you keep the appointments. A dental cleaning rids your kids’ mouths of any built-up plaque that can lead to cavities and catches any issues that could become a problem.
Minimize your kids’ sodas.
While an occasional soda is okay (especially if followed by a good brushing), try to minimize the sodas your kids have on a daily basis and at parties and gatherings. Sodas, even diet sodas, contain sugar which can mingle with bacteria in your kids’ mouth (and yours) to form acid. The acid from this reaction attacks teeth and can decay outer and interior tooth enamel. If you’re really concerned about possible cavities, use these tips to make sure the next soda doesn’t turn into the next cavity.