We all know that it’s important to take care of our teeth. And in the last several years, oral health has been tied to many other health issues, like diabetes and heart disease. If we help our kids learn good oral care now, they will carry those good habits with them as they grow. So, let’s look at some ways we can help our kids take good care of their teeth.
We can start by learning the sign for “brush teeth.” Pretend your pointer finger is a toothbrush, and then move it back and forth just like you’re brushing your teeth!
Why it’s important
Children are notorious for not wanting to brush their teeth properly. Most of us do better with things we don’t enjoy when we understand the “why” of the issue. Kids are no exception, and will often jump in wholeheartedly when they understand the reason for an activity.
First, the most obvious reason, and the easiest for even the youngest children to understand, is the reality of cavities. If we don’t care for our teeth, we’re likely to get cavities. And if you happen to be one of the lucky ones with strong teeth and no cavities, there is still risk of decay and poor gum health. Either way, decay or cavities, things will go wrong without proper oral care.
Beyond the initial issues of pain and decay, there are many other ways that oral health influences other systems in our bodies. The Mayo Clinic lists some problems that are linked to our oral health: endocarditis, cardiovascular disease, pregnancy and birth complications, and pneumonia. Additionally, eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, and Sjogren’s syndrome could have a connection to oral health.
It probably isn’t necessary to present all these issues and the studies behind them to your children. But we can help them to understand that bacteria in our mouths does affect other parts of our bodies.
Young children can start with the basics, and we can add more detailed teaching as they get older. And of course, repeat, repeat, repeat your teaching. This is what we do as parents, right? This will be part of helping our kids learn good oral care.
Proper Oral Hygiene
What does a healthy mouth look like?
If our kids know what clean, healthy teeth look like, they will be better equipped to keep them that way. We can teach our kids that teeth should be generally whitish. No yellow, no gray, no spotting or discolorations. Gums should be pink and feel good. No bleeding or swelling or redness. As kids evaluate their own oral health, they begin to take responsibility in a way that will be far more effective than our reminders to brush their teeth!
Teach good habits
Dentists recommend that we brush at least twice a day. As we brush, we’re supposed to use a circular motion and focus on the gum line. We should spend two minutes brushing each time. This is a great time to use the sign for 2 as a reminder!
We’re supposed to floss regularly. There are many options for little flossers for kids. The easier we make this for them, the more likely they are to do it. As they grow older, they won’t want to use cutesy flossers, but they should be in the habit of flossing. They can learn to use regular floss or stick with flossers that aren’t cute.
Here’s the sign for “floss teeth.”
Dentists also encourage us to use mouthwash and to avoid, or at least decrease sugary snacks. It’s also important to see the dentist every six months for cleaning and preventative care.
Be a good example
Our kids are much more likely to learn good oral health habits if they see us living by these habits too. We can brush our teeth along with our kids, so that they see us using good brushing techniques. Try brushing for two minutes together. We can even floss and gargle together.
We can help our kids learn to take good care of their teeth!