Did you know that your child should go to his first dental checkup when his or her first tooth appears? Want a little more beyond this bit of helpful advice from America’s Pediatric Dentists? Here are the 3 essentials every parent should master to make sure your child grows up knowing how to care for his or her teeth.
1. Portray the right attitude toward dental visits.
Children pick up on their parents’ emotions. And for many of us, visiting a dentist is not high on our list of favorite activities. Unfortunately, such feelings can be unconsciously relayed to our children. LaneFamilyDental.com offers the following advice, “Your child will pick up on your feelings about the appointment. Try to keep your tone upbeat and casual. Don’t give them anything to worry about.”
Parents can often unconsciously do this by using words and phrases that are meant to reassure but can instead inspire fear. For example, statements like, “It won’t hurt.” Or “It will be over quickly.” These types of phrases can turn a neutral experience into one to dread. An overt amount of focus on the event can cause your child to sense that something is wrong. Instead, present the event as an opportunity to spend time together. And use the dental appointment as an opportunity for you to have some quality time with your child.
2. Show that oral hygiene goes beyond teeth brushing.
Educating your child about how cavities are formed is essential for their dental health. If you are hazy on the details of behaviors that can further hurt one’s oral health, then start with learning as much as you can about it. Get rid of dental hygiene myths that are no longer valid. And think about what you do beyond brushing that could be hurting the health of your teeth and gums.
Here are a few suggestions that are a good place to start in your oral hygiene education.
- Replace your and your child’s toothbrush every 3 to 4 months. If you think you will forget, set a calendar reminder for 3 months into the future each time you purchase toothbrushes for your family.
- Avoid serving fizzy drinks to your family. Fizzy drinks contain citric acid and phosphoric acid, both of which can eat away at your teeth’s surface.
- Have your children rinse or brush their teeth after eating any food or snack. Sugar is one of the leading culprits of tooth decay.
- Beware of foods that put teeth at higher risk of cavities. Certain foods and drinks cling to your teeth and thus are more likely to cause cavities than other foods. Foods to watch for include honey, sugar, cookies, ice cream, and chips.
3. Establish a fun routine around your child’s oral care.
Having routines can help us enjoy even mundane tasks. Play an upbeat song as you brush your child’s teeth, and keep on brushing until the song ends. This ensures that sufficient time is given to teeth cleaning and can help firmly establish good oral hygiene. Other ways to create fun routines around morning and night time teeth brushing times include:
- Make it a united event. Brush your own teeth when your children are brushing theirs. Engaging in the same activity together with your offspring can be an important time of non-verbal connection.
- Use the time thoughtfully. When your child is brushing his or her teeth, use that time to comment on areas they are doing well in at school.
Of course, you may not always be able to be present when your child is brushing his or her teeth. But when they first start off, it’s important to nurture the habit with positive reinforcement. This will help your child have good associations when it comes to teeth brushing time. Research ways to make oral hygiene fun!
Helping your child establish good habits around their oral care happens one day at a time. If you have not focused on this aspect of your child’s health, don’t worry that it is too late. Start now, and make it a priority. Talk to your partner about it, and carve out time in your day to have conversations about oral health with your children. Be there as they brush their teeth so that they can see the importance you are giving it. They will pick up your desire to see improvement in this area and will internalize that.