Did you know that more than one in four U.S. adults (26%) have untreated dental cavities, according to oral health data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, 13% of youths aged five to nine have untreated tooth decay, highlighting just how prevalent poor oral health is across the board. For parents who are looking to begin the journey of helping their child establish good oral hygiene, doing so successfully doesn’t have to be a stressful endeavor. From the techniques worth giving a try to how creativity can play a role, here’s how you can ensure a life-long healthy dental care routine.
The advantages of early dental care
80% of U.S. children start brushing their teeth later than they should, according to one report from the CDC. Pediatrician Kimberly Giuliano, MD, explains the value in beginning healthy brushing habits early on, noting that if children start brushing too late, they’ll start to develop plaque and tartar buildup on their teeth, which can lead to cavities. In addition to the risk of damage that comes from cavities, inadequate brushing can also result in bacteria developing in the body, which can lead to inflammation and disease in the mouth and throughout the body, too.
When it comes to how soon you should start brushing your child’s teeth, the general recommendation is to begin such a routine as soon as they have their first tooth. As for the amount of toothpaste used, it’s important to not go overboard. “Once children are at the age of 2, we recommend that they use the amount of toothpaste that’s the size of a grain of rice,” Dr. Giuliano advises. “Between the ages of 3 and 6, they can just do a pea-sized amount of fourinated toothpaste on the toothbrush.”
A variety of teaching techniques
It’s a common misconception that baby teeth aren’t as important to take care of due to being temporary — while it varies from person to person, most children typically lose their first tooth around age six or seven. However, caring for baby teeth is just as important as caring for adult teeth, primarily due to the fact that the habits they learn early on will likely follow them as they grow older. Once your children are at the age where they should be brushing their teeth on their own, ensuring that they’re getting into the habit of doing so twice a day can be an overwhelming and stressful endeavor, especially if they view the routine as boring or ‘just another chore.’
VeryWell Family offers several helpful tips when looking to instill good brushing habits in your little one. Teaching your child the reasons why good oral health is important is just one place to start, with VeryWell suggesting doing a cavity science experiment to demonstrate the role that brushing plays, and playing pretend with stuffed animals when teaching how to properly brush teeth. “Brush your teeth alongside your child in the morning and the evening,” the post also suggests, going on to point out that little ones like to copy adult behaviors.
The value in a creative journey
While there are plenty of techniques when it comes to helping your child understand the importance of brushing their teeth, making the twice-daily ritual more enticing can seem like an impossible feat. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to make brushing teeth fun rather than a mundane chore. For example, one toothbrush known as ‘Magik from Kolibree’ works with your smartphone to gamify the brushing experience with the help of AI. However, toothbrushes that feature characters, bright colors present additional options, while light-up toothbrushes (a common feature among Firefly toothbrushes) can help navigate issues like knowing how long to brush. With that in mind, being flexible in the matter by allowing them to pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste (so long as it contains fluoride) can make for a more enjoyable task.
As toothbrushing can be a major struggle to implement on a daily basis, leaning into creativity can be of major help. Colgate offers several tips for doing just that. For instance, singing while your child brushes their teeth (whether it be a made-up song or one of their favorites) or playing a song for them is just one creative idea, while setting up a progress chart reward system is recommended for those who may need a bit of motivation. And, when your child does start to lose their baby teeth, leaving a note from the tooth fairy to encourage better brushing habits is also a worthy consideration.
Ensuring that your child develops and maintains a healthy oral hygiene routine can sound like a major undertaking, especially if they’re being particularly stubborn. By starting the journey at the signs of a first tooth, teaching them the essentials in creative ways, and allowing for flexibility, you’re sure to help your little one achieve the perfect smile.