Some unknown person once said “You don’t have to brush your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.” And although that’s a humorous way of looking at the need for good oral hygiene habits, it’s also too true! No matter how old you are, neglecting your teeth will only result in bacterial growth, gum disease, and worse. Brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist for bi-annual cleanings and screenings will keep your smile looking happy and healthy. As adults, we already know the benefits of good oral hygiene. But these are all habits that must be taught, practiced, and reinforced with our children. Daily.
Most parents know that teaching their children to take care of their teeth is a habit that will serve them well throughout the course of their entire lives. It’s a habit that’s passed down from parent to child – generation after generation. And although good oral hygiene is a life skill that we all consider a basic necessity, it can still be a chore to get a child to commit to the process on a daily basis. Some parents – those who are struggling with reinforcing good oral hygiene in their children – may think that brushing and flossing every day is more than what’s necessary. Unfortunately, the daily habit is where real success is gained. Daily brushing habits are good brushing habits. As such, daily reinforcement is necessary. Fortunately, when you reinforce daily habits with your children – such as bathing, washing their hands, eating healthy, etc. – you create an environment and a culture in your household that is perfectly in-tune with those good habits. A habit or a chore that is performed less often – is a habit or chore that can be easily forgotten. I forgot to clean my room. I’ll do it tomorrow. You get the idea.
There are a number of ways to encourage your children to take care of their teeth – in a manner that creates a day-to-day acceptance of the habit. The first is to lead by example. Of course. Any parent knows that their children are likely to mimic the behaviors they see in their parents from an early age. If you model the habits you wish to see in your children, they are likely to follow along. As teacher, this makes your task much easier! Secondly, you’ll want to start early. Life-long habits are formed at early ages. Third, reward good behavior (not with sweets!). Children love to get approval from their parents. Verbal approval (such as praise and recognition) and physical approval (such as hugs) go a long way with children. And they’re free to give! Lastly, don’t be afraid to do a little role reversal when it comes time to brushing or flossing. One of the best ways to concrete an understanding of a habit is to let the person you’re trying to teach be the teacher themselves. Let your child direct your brushing and flossing and critique you on your technique. Who knows, maybe someday they’ll be the one who teaches their younger sibling the basics of good oral hygiene. How great would that be?
If you need more information about how to care for your child’s teeth, or if you wish to make an appointment for an evaluation, feel free to contact the office of Dr. Cobb. There can be many responses to questions about early oral care for children, so it’s always best to address parent questions on a case-by-case basis. As a pediatric dentist, Dr. Cobb is always ready to provide counseling regarding these issues and more!