All parents want their children to live long and happy lives. A key part of this is instilling healthy habits in them from a young age. We make sure they are eating right, including those vegetables they hate, that they exercise enough, and that they’re doing well in school. Our hope is that if we stay on top of them now, when they finally leave the nest, they’ll have all of the tools they need to continue taking care of themselves properly.
One such area that we should focus on is their oral health. Oral health plays a large role in our overall health, and taking good care of our mouths can help to prevent a lot of serious problems down the road. With that in mind, here are 6 habits you should try to instill in your children as early as you can regarding their oral health.
Brushing Their Teeth
The first habit is also the most obvious – you need to get your kids to regularly brush their teeth. This doesn’t just mean for 10 seconds before they go to bed. Ideally, your children will form a habit of brushing their teeth at least twice a day, for roughly 30 to 60 seconds. Teach them the proper brushing technique and explain the importance of doing this every day. Brushing your teeth should be something that is automatic by the time you’re older – something you don’t even question doing. The only way this happens however is if you instill the habit from a young age.
Replace Their Tooth Brush
In addition to brushing their teeth, they also need to be using a good tooth brush. Tooth brushes wear down over time, and if you wait too long to replace it, the brush becomes less effective. A good time to replace the brush is every time you visit the dentist – or roughly once every six months. Many children’s dentists will give away free toothbrushes when you visit, but if not, it’s easy to pick one up the next time you’re at the supermarket. Consider letting your child pick out the style and color that they want, so that they are more likely to use it. There are even fun brushes that play music while you brush, which might entice your kids a little more.
Learn to Floss as They Get Older
Once your kids are a little older, it’s a good idea to introduce them to flossing. Flossing helps to remove all that extra stuff that our brushes can’t reach, and it’s very vital to good oral health. No one really likes flossing, but if you can get into the habit, it’s not that much of an inconvenience. Show your child the proper way to floss and encourage them to do it every night before bed. A good practice is to let them see you flossing each night, so that they will hopefully follow your example.
Another habit you can try to instill in your children is proper rinsing. A quick rinse using either mouthwash or salt water can help to eliminate bacteria along the insides of your mouth and on your gums. A good time to rinse is right after you’ve brushed your teeth or flossed, and it only takes a few more seconds. If your kid doesn’t like the kind of mouthwash that burns, there are now kinds that are less harsh. When your kids are home from school, like on the weekends, encourage them to also rinse after they eat anything, as this will prevent things like sugar from eroding tooth enamel.
Regular Dentist Visits
Finally, visiting the dentist is one of the most important habits you can pass along to your kids. It’s no fun going to the dentist, but it’s essential for good oral health. If your kids hate going to the dentist, try to surround the appointment with other fun activities and make the day more enjoyable. Just be sure you are presenting these things as a bribe (as in, “If you go to the dentist, we can go to the park afterward”) as this sends the message that going to the dentist is a bad thing.
It’s also important that you find the rest dentist for your kids, as that can make all the difference. Take some time to explore the dental services in your area, and if you’re unhappy with your current dentist (or that of your kid’s), consider making the switch.
Be a Role Model
The best way to pass along these habits is to do them yourself. If your kids see you eating right, exercising, and taking care of your mouth, they are more likely to do the same. The habits we learn as a child tend to stick with us all our lives, so make sure you are setting a good example for your kids and passing along the right habits.