Children mimic their parents in many ways. As a parent myself, I quickly learned this with my young son in the car after I mumbled how another driver was an “Idiot”. He reminded me that “that word” was a no-no in his pre-school. I remember apologizing while worrying that he would call someone the same and chastised because his Mom had been the very example of this no-no.
Although parents occasionally slip, in general, children learn positive traits from them that stick with them for a lifetime. Parents teach their children much, like using good table manners, washing their hands, sharing toys and being gentle with babies and pets. Parents can also have a positive impact on a child’s perception of keeping their teeth clean.
Of course, parents know the importance of preventing cavities in their children’s teeth, even “baby” teeth. Because primary teeth are place holders for the “adult” teeth that will emerge around age 6 or so, keeping these early teeth healthy and present is important.
It is also important that parents teach children how to brush at least twice a day to prevent enduring the pain of a cavity. Although cavities can occur even when a child brushes regularly, no parent wants to put a child through having a tooth “filled” because of a cavity. Preventing cavities from forming in the first place is the goal for children and adults.
So, how do we, as parents, instill a positive and lifelong oral health commitment in children? After all, these smiles are the ones we’ll see as WE grow older, too!
You may be interested in findings of a study on positive reinforcement. The study focused on how parental praise can have an impact on children when it comes to their oral healthcare at home. Reinforcing terms, such as “you’re doing a good job,” and “nice work” come across as motivating words to youngsters learning to do their own tooth brushing.
In addition to verbal encouragement, some good tips for motivating your children are:
• Begin by showing your child to use only a dab of toothpaste on wet bristles. Be sure your child is using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
• Show your child how to angle the toothbrush at about 45 degrees at their upper and lower gum line.
• Help your child to gently move in a back-&-forth motion using short strokes along the teeth in sections.
• Provide guidance in holding the toothbrush at different angles to reach the front and back, and inside and outside of upper and lower teeth.
• After brushing, make brushing the tongue a fun way to conclude. Tongue brushing helps to remove a tremendous amount of bacteria in the mouth.
• Children should begin daily flossing when the sides of teeth start to touch. Help them to understand how this action can dislodge food particles caught between teeth. These “rotting” food bits can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and bad breath. Until your child is able to floss on his/her own without popping floss against tender gum tissues, have them watch you floss their teeth while they hold a hand mirror. In time, they can try easy-to-reach teeth using the technique you’ve shown them. Once they feel confident using floss, they can floss back teeth as well.
Our Shelby Twp dental office’s web site has several videos on dental services and features of the comprehensive dentistry we offer. One of these is on easy flossing techniques. Watch this to be certain you are using correct flossing measures, which may make flossing easier in helping your child.
By using yourself as an example of good oral hygiene, your child(ren) will grow with a healthier smile they are able to care for with the commitment it deserves.
Just as adults, children’s oral health needs 6-month dental checkups. These appointments allow your dentist and dental hygienists to catch still-small problems while easy to treat as well as note issues that can develop into more complex situations (such as signs of bite misalignment or abnormal tooth wear).
Dental checkups and cleanings are also periodic opportunities to remove plaque buildup that can lead to cavities. During your child’s appointments, our staff strives to make each visit fun and a positive experience. Children should look forward to their dental visits and understand they are a beneficial way to staying healthy top-to-bottom. Please help us in this by avoiding pre-appointment phrases like, “Don’t be scared,” or “It won’t hurt much.”
Schedule your dental checkups as a family. Call 586-739-2155 or tap here to arrange your visits together!