Taking care of your teeth is important at every age. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that all children see a dentist by age 1. It can be challenging as a parent to get your kids excited about their dental health . Here are some suggestions to make oral hygiene at home fun.
Make toothbrushing a fun activity- Children love to mimic things they see around them. Express excitement about brushing your own teeth when your child is watching. Have an extra ‘toy’ toothbrush that your child can use to practice hygiene on their favorite toys.
Explain the importance of oral hygiene at an age appropriate level- Parents can say things like “Brushing your teeth removes all of the sticky food that sugar bugs like to eat. If we don’t remove the sticky stuff your teeth won’t be strong.” If one of the parents has any dental work, show your children what happens when they have to get a cavity filled. Avoid saying things like “getting a cavity hurts” or “you will have to get a shot”. These types of things can cause unnecessary anxiety about dental treatment.
Show and tell- Parents can purchase a plaque disclosing mouthwash that temporarily stains all of the plaque in the mouth. Have your child rinse with this mouthwash and then have them take a close look at all of the plaque on their teeth. This helps show kids where they need to focus on cleaning while they are brushing.
Use fluoride and see your dentist regularly- Prior to age 2, children should only use a ‘smear’ of fluoridated toothpaste. From age 2-5, it is safe for children to use a pea sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste every time they brush. It is recommended that brushing be supervised until the child is around 7 and has developed the fine motor skills necessary to clean every surface of their teeth sufficiently. Children should have their first dental visit around their first birthday and should be seeing their dentist for check-ups and cleanings every six months.