As any parent will attest, getting our kids to do anything they don’t want to do can be a major uphill battle. Put your toys away, eat your greens, do your homework, apologise to your little sister… you can tell them to do these things over and over and over again until you’re blue in the face but they’ll have no problem ignoring you.
The same goes with telling your kids to brush their teeth. There’s a common misconception that it doesn’t really matter if kids brush their teeth or not, after all, their baby teeth are all going to fall out anyway. However, it’s actually just as important that your kids are looking after their baby teeth as their adult teeth.
As parents, it’s our job to instil good habits in our children and from the time they start teething this includes promoting good dental hygiene in order to protect their teeth and gums from infections, cavities and pain. In Australia, we do not have a great track record on this front and, according to Heathdirect.gov, tooth decay in children is steadily on the rise with statistics showing that all children between 5 and 10 have on average one and half baby teeth that are missing, decayed or filled. This is a worrying statistic because decay in a baby tooth can cause major problems when their adult teeth grow in.
These problems can be incredibly painful for kids and can be incredibly expensive for their parents but, never fear, they can be easily avoided by teaching your kids to practice proper oral hygiene from an early age.
Here are seven tried and tested tips from the specialists at Putney Dental Care for parents looking to teach their kids about proper dental hygiene.
Pick A Fun Toothbrush
Kids can be incredibly picky but an image of Lightning McQueen, the PJ Masks or one of the forty thousand My Little Pony characters is more than enough to sell them on anything! If there was a way to brand broccoli with a Disney character, trust us, it would fly off the shelves. So, when it comes time to try and get your kids excited about teeth brushing, a fun toothbrush emblazoned with their favourite character is a great first step. Most supermarkets will sell toothbrushes with characters on them, take your kids to the shops and let them pick one out themselves and they’ll be begging to brush their teeth in no time!
Set A Timer
Kids have absolutely no concept of time. To them, 45 minutes of screentime feels infinitely shorter than 5 minutes worth of maths mentals and there’s absolutely no convincing them otherwise. So, we know we should be brushing our teeth for at least two minutes but, to communicate that to a kid you’re going to have to set a timer. Buy an egg timer for your bathroom and show the kids how to set it and explain that they have to keep brushing until the timer goes off.
Make Sure They Have An Age Appropriate Brush
Make sure you’ve got a kid-sized toothbrush for their kid-sized teeth. You’ll want a small-headed, soft-bristled toothbrush for kids under eight years old. From the time your baby begins to teeth you can begin cleaning their teeth with a soft toothbrush and water though, from the age of 18-months you can start to use a low-fluoride toothpaste to clean your kids’ teeth. Remember, your child’s toothbrush should be replaced every three to four months and after every cold or flu!
Offer Positive Reinforcement
A tried and true parent will have read the subtext in this piece of advice: bribe them. This is one of the few times that a lolly is a totally inappropriate bribe but, never fear, there are plenty of ways to bribe your kids. Consider investing in a sticker chart and dishing out a small toy for a week of good brushing or, if your kids have a total sweet tooth, consider rewarding them with these teeth-friendly treats.
Lead By Example
As anyone who has ever heard their kid parrot some of their own salty language could tell you, kids love to copy their parents. So lead by example, come together to brush your teeth as a family or make sure you brush and floss your teeth in front of your kids and model good behaviour for them to copy.
Bring Your Kids Along To Your Own Appointments
A dentist appointment can be scary for a young kid with the big chair, bright lights and strange machinery. To help your kid become less scared of the dentist, demystify the whole process by bringing them into your own appointment and showing them it’s not scary. Have the dentist explain to your kids what the robots and machines do and how they don’t hurt will help your child feel brave when it comes time for them to have their very own dental check-up.
Make It Fun
The golden rule with kids is to always make things fun. Look into children’s books or television segments that explain the importance of brushing your teeth twice a day. You might also consider looking into teeth brushing songs, designed to take two minutes and get kids excited about the prospect of brushing their teeth.
So, get your little one’s brushing today as prevention is always better than treatment.