When it comes to brushing teeth, your kids probably just don’t see the point in it. The concept of tooth decay or gum disease is alien to them. Without ongoing parental encouragement and guidance, many children will tend to neglect their oral healthcare, while others may flatly refuse to clean their teeth.
Most kids will have lost all their baby teeth by the time they’re 12 to 14, so you might think they don’t require the same level of care as permanent teeth. However, tooth decay is common among youngsters who still have primary teeth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tooth decay affects one in five youngsters aged five to 11.
While baby teeth only last for a relatively short time, they play a major role in reserving a space for their adult counterparts, maintaining a natural facial appearance, and developing clear speech.
Your child’s primary teeth are also important for nutrition: if the teeth are decayed or missing, your youngster will find it difficult to chew their food, causing them to reject certain foods that are good for them. Decay or infection in baby teeth can also damage the adult teeth developing beneath them.
If a baby tooth is lost too soon, the adult teeth can drift into the space, making it difficult for other permanent teeth to find room when they come in. This can make teeth crowded or crooked.
Failing to brush their teeth can cause children discomfort and problems with speaking and eating well into the eruption of their adult teeth. It also establishes a pattern of poor oral healthcare for the future, which can lead to issues in other areas of the body.
Paving the Way for a Good Oral Healthcare Routine
Most children have a full set of 20 primary teeth by the time they are three. As a general rule, dentists advise parents to brush their child’s teeth for them until they are able to tie their shoelaces, typically around the age of six.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends supervision of a child’s tooth brushing until about the age of eight. This presents you with the perfect opportunity to pave the way for your youngster to get into a regular routine of brushing that will carry on throughout their life.
Easier said than done, though! So here are a few tips to get your child to brush their teeth and develop good oral healthcare habits.
Use a Rewards System
Promise your child a reward as an inducement to clean their teeth. The treat that works best will depend on your youngster’s interests and age.
For instance, a child aged under eight might be more inclined to clean their teeth if they know they’ll get a special bedtime story before lights out.
For an older child, a good incentive might be letting them watch an episode of their favorite TV show after brushing and before bed. If your youngster still bridles at the prospect of cleaning their teeth, point out that the longer they spend complaining, the less time they’ll get in front of the TV.
Make a Game of It
Turning tooth brushing into a game is a variation on the rewards theme. Play one of their favorite songs – at least two minutes long, the optimum brushing time – and throw a mini dance party!
Another option is to create a chart, awarding your youngster a star each time they clean their teeth without being asked, with five stars qualifying for a prize. Make the rewards more significant as the stars accumulate. If you have siblings, introduce an element of friendly competition into proceedings by awarding the first to get 10 stars a slightly better prize.
Use Fun Products
To encourage your youngster to brush their teeth, you can offer them a choice of dental healthcare products. Take your child shopping to pick out a brush and toothpaste that they like the look of.
Many toothbrushes for young children feature popular cartoon characters. Having your youngster’s favorite cartoon figure adorning their toothbrush will motivate them to use it more often. Toothpaste packaging featuring Disney characters is likely to be a big hit with younger children.
Be Mindful of a Sensitive Mouth
Some children’s mouths are more sensitive than others, which can make brushing an unpleasant experience. If the cause of your child’s oral sensitivity is a decayed or cracked tooth, it’s time to get professional dental treatment.
If the problem lies in the general sensitivity of your youngster’s teeth, special desensitizing toothpaste is available. Consult a dentist before allowing your child to use one of these kinds of toothpaste, particularly if they’re under 12.
The Special Care Dentistry Association says children with autism or attention disorders are likely to have pronounced sensitivity that will affect oral healthcare.
Set a Good Example
Children learn from their parents, so make brushing a family affair. There’s no better way to lead by example when it comes to brushing than being right there with them to make sure they do a good job. As the American Dental Association says: “The family that brushes together has even more reason to smile.”
Young children particularly enjoy learning by copying, so brush your teeth together in front of a mirror, giving them the chance to duplicate what you’re doing. Youngsters also like to mimic other children, so show your kids a cute video like “How to Brush Your Teeth Properly for Children.”
Where to Get Expert Help
Once you’ve got your youngster into good toothbrushing habits, replace their toothbrush every three months (or sooner if the bristles become frayed) to ensure effective functioning and to safeguard against harmful bacteria. And make sure they see a dentist every six months for a check-up.
Remember that your kids’ teeth are susceptible to the same problems as adult teeth, so try to cut back on the number of starchy snacks and sugary drinks they consume. An experienced pediatric dental practice will be able to give you comprehensive and invaluable advice on how to get young children to brush their teeth and on preventative dental care for kids.