It’s one thing to teach children brushing and flossing techniques, and another to actually help them develop healthy oral hygiene habits. Here are some tips and ideas for helping your children develop a healthy dental hygiene routine.
Make brushing and flossing a natural part of your child’s daily life by starting the habit early. You can begin cleaning your child’s gums gently with a damp cloth even before any teeth have erupted. As the teeth begin to erupt, you can brush them with a baby-friendly toothbrush, and start flossing as soon as there are two teeth next to each other.
These early routines will help ensure that your child has no memory of ever NOT brushing and flossing, making them feel like an inherent part of daily life.
Let them choose their tools
When your child is old enough, let her choose her own toothbrush, dental floss and toothpaste. This will give her a sense of agency in the process, and make her feel more inspired to brush and floss using the tools she picked out herself.
Build a routine
Set aside a few minutes twice a day, at a specific time, and devote them exclusively to the oral hygiene routine. This will show your child that, no matter what else is going on, oral hygiene is a priority.
Make a chart or use a calendar to create oral hygiene goals. For every full week (or two weeks, or month) of twice daily brushing and flossing completed, offer a small reward. The reward can be almost anything, from a sticker, or an extra half hour of play time before bed, to a slumber party with friends or a trip to the movies.
This will give your child something tangible to work toward, and create an incentive for maintaining healthy habits (if simply having healthy teeth and gums isn’t quite enough!).
Let them see you maintain your own routine
As you may have noticed, kids tend to watch, and mimic, mom and dad. Let your kids see that you are steadfast in maintaining your own oral hygiene habits, and that it’s important to you. They’ll more than likely follow suit.
Let the older kids help
Enlist the help of your older children. Ask them to show the younger kids that brushing and flossing are important to them. Little kids almost invariably want to be like the big kids, so this can be a big help!
Be sure to praise your child when he does a good job brushing his teeth. Telling him, “wow, your chompers are just sparkling today!” or “my goodness, your breath smells so fresh!” or simply commenting on how proud you are that he’s taking such good care of his smile, will provide much needed encouragement.