Three in four Irish children have experienced tooth decay by the time they reach the age of 15, the Irish Dental Association has warned. And it’s not just because of high-sugar diets.
Oral health is absolutely dependent on dental hygiene practices and those begin as soon as a child has teeth (around 1 year).
It’s never too early or too late to start taking your children’s brushing protocol to the next level.
Read on for our top 5 tips on how to teach a child the right way to brush their teeth.
Teach a Child By Example
One of the best tips for teaching your children how to brush their teeth is to lead by example.
This can start in their infancy. Bring your child with you to the bathroom when you brush your teeth. Talk them through every step of what you’re doing.
Show them what techniques you use to tell time, to reach every tooth, brushing the tongue, etc.
Include flossing and mouth rinse in your daily brushing.
As your children watch you make oral health a daily priority, they’ll begin to understand that this is a normal, easy thing that they, too, can incorporate.
Brush in Front of a Mirror
Kids are visual learners. They’ve watched you brush, and being able to watch themselves will help them replicate your actions and behaviours.
Help them find a comfortable place in front of the bathroom mirror and sink where they can see themselves brush.
Many parents use a step stool to help their children reach the counter or a handheld mirror to help them see.
They will likely need assistance in brushing till the age of 4 or 5, so make sure to brush your own teeth right before them and then help them follow suit. Children should brush with supervision until about 7 years of age.
Don’t Use Threats
While it’s vital to teach your children about the risks of neglecting their teeth, you should never use threats to motivate them.
Avoid these phrases:
- “If you don’t brush your teeth then you’ll get cavities and we’ll have to go to the dentist!”
- “Fine! I’ll just take you to the dentist tomorrow and they’ll brush them for you!”
These can be harmful because they not only create a fearful and negative association with brushing their teeth. But they also begin to associate the dentist with punishment.
Instead, use phrases like these:
- “I know you’d rather play right now, but it’s important to brush our teeth. Let’s do it together!”
- “Good job brushing! Make sure to get every part of your mouth so it can stay healthy and clean.”
- “Only a little bit of time left! I can tell you’re tired, but you can do it!”
The use of positive reinforcement helps them to develop a positive connection with this habit.
They’ll be more likely to maintain healthy oral behaviours through life if you help them see it as a positive experience rather than one based on fear.
Use the Correct Type of Timer
Children are able to understand the concept of a visual timer better than a virtual one. So while setting a timer on your phone app can help, they still may struggle to stay motivated to brush the whole time.
Check to see if you have an hourglass laying around a board game set. Or download a visual hourglass or find a video of an hourglass online.
Using a visual timer can help kids understand where they truly are in relationship to the time frame you’ve given them for brushing.
Another tool for timing brushing is playing a favourite song of theirs.
Visit a Dentist Regularly
Make sure that you visit the dentist regularly and that you frame it as a positive, normal experience.
Help your children understand that having their teeth cleaned is a little different than anything else they do. They’ll experience some new feelings, tastes, and sounds.
Be sure to remind them that most dentists give kids a reward after each visit.
You can also tell them that if they ever feel uncomfortable, that you’ll be right there with them and you’ll help them through it.
Put Your Children On the Road to Good Oral Health!
By following these tips, you can teach a child how to care for their teeth in a way that will help them develop good oral hygiene for the rest of their lives.
Visit us today for your family’s dental needs!