Talking to Your Kids About Dental Hygiene
As your children get older and start assuming responsibility for their health and hygiene, it is important to teach them about good dental hygiene – why it is important and how to keep their teeth healthy. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as, “go brush your teeth.” Kids need more instruction than that.
It is helpful to explain to children about teeth – why we have them, how they work, and how important it is to take care of them. Explain that while we aren’t born with teeth, they grow as we grow and they are there to help us eat food, which in turn nourishes our body and makes us grow strong.
Our first set of teeth, the “baby” teeth, start coming in between the ages of 6 and 12 months old, and by the time a kid is 3 they usually have their first set of teeth. These teeth aren’t here to stay, because by the time a child is 5 or 6 these “baby” teeth start falling out. The reason for that is that the permanent teeth behind them is trying to grow, and that “baby” tooth is in the way.
Even though those “baby” teeth, or primary teeth, are not permanent, this is the key time to instill a good dental hygiene habit in your child. It is important that children get enough, but not too much, fluoride to facilitate the growth and health of the teeth, and it is important that children develop good brushing and flossing habits at a young age. If you allow your child to “slack” on brushing and flossing because those teeth will fall out anyway, you are doing your child a great disservice. A habit that begins between the ages of 3 and 5 is a habit that will stick around for a long time, so if you set the precedent that good dental hygiene isn’t important YET, it will be hard to drive the point home that all of the sudden it is important to take care of your teeth.
It is not hard to take care of your teeth properly. Teach your child that it is important to brush the teeth at least twice per day, if not after every meal. The proper way to brush teeth is to brush in little circles, and then up and down. If you brush side to side, you’re pushing whatever debris that is on the surface of the tooth into the space between teeth, where cavities grow and thrive.
Even if you brush up and down and in circles, food still gets caught between the teeth, so it is important to use dental floss to clean between teeth every time you brush. Making tooth brushing time fun for your child is easy with all the kid-friendly products on the market. Just make sure that their novelty toothbrush has good strong, but soft bristles, and that you replace it once per month. Also, make sure that any novelty flavored toothpaste contains fluoride, and is approved by the American Dental Association.
Twice yearly visits to the dentist are also of the utmost importance. Getting a regular cleaning keeps the teeth healthy and strong. If your child is afraid of the dentist, it is not lying to tell them that the better they take care of their teeth at home, the shorter time they’ll have to spend at the dentist getting their teeth cleaned.