It can sometimes be difficult for children to follow new rules as they grow older, especially as their baby and permanent teeth develop. As babies, kids had help from mommy and daddy to keep their teeth clean, but when they’re older, the responsibility is theirs. Young kids may not look forward to keeping up with dental hygiene twice a day. From bedtime routines to games, here are some tips to encourage your child to take care of their smile.
Make a Chart and Set Rewards
Positive reinforcement creates the best impression of dental care and hygiene routines. If your child is successful at brushing their teeth before bed, and when they wake up, they can earn a gold star or a special sticker. After they gain enough positive markers, treat your child to a fun day out or their favorite treat. For fussy children, this can be a particularly effective strategy that motivates them to keep their teeth clean.
Get the Timing Right
Everyone’s hygiene habits are different, but when it comes to dentistry, specific timing is necessary to protect dental enamel. Some kids like to wake up and immediately head to breakfast, brushing their teeth before going out the door for school. However, this can prove to be damaging. After eating and drinking, dental enamel becomes slightly softer.
Brushing your teeth immediately after eating highly acidic things like orange juice can cause teeth to become thin over time as the enamel wears away. Encourage kids to brush before they eat in the morning and before bed at night instead of right after dinner. If you do want them to brush after eating, wait at least 30 minutes to allow saliva to neutralize any acids.
Make it a Team Effort
It’s hard to send children off to brush their teeth if they see you’re not doing the same yourself. Set an example for your kids by joining them during brushing and flossing; you can even get big brothers and sisters in on it. This modeling allows you to demonstrate that everyone has to care for their teeth, not only them. While cleaning your teeth is part of a routine for you, as an adult, it’s essential to help kids get in the habit themselves, so they no longer see it as a chore.
Visit Your Dentist Together
Make several preliminary visits to the dental office. The familiarity removes the fear of the unknown and allows your child to acquaint themselves with the dental team. If you need a short procedure such as a small filling or a cavity check, have your child sit next to you or on your lap while you are treated.
Read and Watch Videos
Check out books from the library on dental care for children or watch some of the very well-done cartoons available for free on YouTube. These have cute stories, catchy tunes, and educational content that are wonderful ways to give your child oral health skills to prevent dental issues.
Emphasize the “grown-up” status of your child for attending dental appointments. Children enjoy feeling like they are graduating to higher levels of responsibility, and this experience can give them a strong sense of pride.
Let your child join in a role-changing exercise where he or she gets to examine and treat you or another family member’s teeth. This experience can alleviate their anxiety and empower them to feel in control of their dental care.
For The Highly Inquisitive Child
Invest in a microscope, so your child gets a concrete visual of how germs look. Saliva or water from a local pond contains many organisms that are invisible to the naked eye but can be harmful. Some of these bacteria even live inside our mouths!
Hygiene Habits that Promote Restful Sleep
Creating a consistent bedtime routine is a great start when it comes to establishing good hygiene. With this in place, your child has an easier time relaxing before going to bed and is often in the right frame of mind so that sleep comes naturally. Taking the following steps can help you create this foundation for your child:
Establish a clear and consistent bedtime and wake your child up at the same time every morning. This practice trains your child’s internal clock to get ready for sleep at the right time.
Develop a bedtime routine that your child can carry out every night before they get into bed. A typical routine might be bath time, brushing teeth, reading a book, then lights out.
Reduce bedroom clutter to cut down on night-time distractions.
Stick to a “no TV, no screens” rule for 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime to reduce stimulation.
Minimize or eliminate after-dinner sugar intake to avoid hyperactive behavior. This habit has the added advantage of reducing the risk of developing dental caries.
If you’re struggling to keep your kids on the right track with their oral hygiene, call our office and speak to a member of our team today. We provide education and tips to keep you and your kids smiling with pride!