Healthy Dental Habits for Your Kids
Kids that establish good dental habits early on in life are set up for a healthy future. Not only can poor habits lead to cavities, gingivitis and stained teeth, dental health is also linked intrinsically to overall health.
The habits that children learn at a young age stay with them for the rest of their lives. There’s a lot you can do to give your children an excellent base for dental health, but the fundamentals are very simple. A good routine, attention to diet and exercise, and your own behaviour will make a strong impression on your children and instill in them the importance of taking care of themselves, from top to bottom.
Brushing and Flossing
Brushing and flossing are a must but make sure you check up on your children’s diligence; many adults even struggle to be as consistent as they should be with these. Some children will skip brushing their teeth as a small act of rebellion, one which could result in cavities at a young age.
Your child — and you — should brush, floss, and (if old enough) use mouthwash at least twice a day. Brush your teeth for two minutes, spending thirty seconds in each “quadrant”. Parents should help younger children brush their teeth as they don’t have the manual dexterity to brush properly. A good rule of thumb is that until your child can tie their shoelaces, they should be assisted with their brushing.
Floss afterward, using either traditional string or the newer, easier-to-use dental flossing tools. They’re marginally more expensive than regular floss, but their ease of use means that children are more likely to actually keep up the habit.
Opt for an alcohol-free mouthwash. Not because there’s a risk of intoxication from it but because alcohol-based mouthwashes are simply more intense, which could be a deterrent for a child. There are mouthwashes made just for children in flavours such as bubblegum and cotton candy. Your child may prefer these flavours rather than a very intense menthol.
Just as important as how your child cleans their teeth is what passes through them. Desserts, tacky candy, sugary soda, and acidic juices are detrimental to teeth and should be avoided as much as possible.
Of course, it’s not realistic to deny your child a birthday cake because the sugar could contribute to a cavity, but try and make candy a treat for a special occasion. Allowing your child too much sugar has all sorts of negative side effects, including weight gain, attention deficit, and an altered palate that prefers junk food. Snacks that support dental health include:
- raw vegetables, such as carrots, celery, and cucumber
- eggs in any form, such as boiled, deviled, scrambled, or fried
- nuts and seeds contain many beneficial vitamins and minerals that support a great smile
- milk, cheese, and yogurt, which contain calcium to keep teeth strong
Exercise may not directly translate into an improved smile, but incorporating exercise into your child’s life will instill a focus on overall wellness. A child that knows how good it feels to have a fit, healthy body has a reference point for the rest of their lives. They’ll care about their wellbeing and will be ready to deal with issues if they crop up.
Exercise promotes good blood circulation, good sleep, and protects against chronic disease. There are hundred-and-one reasons to promote an active lifestyle with your children, dental health being but one aspect of that.
One of the best ways to instill good dental habits in your children is scheduling regular appointments. Visiting the dentist will become normal to them, and their dentist will be able to catch issues before they can become major problems.
Your children’s teeth will receive a deep cleaning at the dentist, acting as a “reboot” for a normal life. Once your child understands the difference between a truly clean mouth and a gunky one they’ll be more inclined to maintain it.
Be a Good Role Model
The number one thing you can do to teach your child good dental habits is having them yourself. It does no good to tell your child to do something if you go off and do the opposite when you think they’re not looking. They’re definitely looking, and they’re definitely noticing if your words and actions don’t align. At best, they’ll learn that it’s ok to flout responsibility, and at worst they’ll learn it’s ok to be dishonest.
You are your child’s biggest role model. If they see you carrying out a good dental routine, taking your dental health seriously, and making a point of visiting the dentist, they are very likely to follow in your footsteps. You set the prime example for them, so make it a good one.
The key to instilling good dental habits in your children is education, consistency, and modeling the behaviour yourself. By doing this, your child will grow up with a good understanding of the importance of dental health and how to maintain it properly. Your children will have a healthy smile (and lower dental bills) for the rest of their lives.