Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease found in American children. Your Highlands Ranch Family Dental has put together the top 5 ways to get your kids to take care of their teeth.
That’s a shocking statistic because in most cases, tooth decay is preventable.
You might think that the state of children’s teeth isn’t a big deal. After all, kids lose their baby teeth and replace them with adult teeth anyway. It’s not until their permanent teeth are in that the work really begins.
But that’s not true. Kids need to take care of their teeth – even when they don’t want to – because their approach to hygiene during childhood is not only important for their baby teeth but for how their mouth develops.
What’s more, tooth decay impacts more than how early children lose their teeth. In fact, back in 2000, the U.S Surgeon General issued a report that estimated that 51 million school hours are sacrificed every year because of dental-related illnesses.
So, the state of kids’ teeth is important, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s not always easy to get kids to take care of their teeth.
On that note, here’s a guide to everything you need to know about your kids’ teeth and how to get them to take care of them.
1. Tell Them What the Toothbrush Is Doing
Have you ever explained to your kids precisely why you make them stop having fun and stick a plastic brush and some kinda-gross-but-not-too-gross paste in their mouth twice a day?
Well, they probably want to know. And they’re likely to better understand why they’re brushing their teeth if you tell them. Understanding leads to willingness unless they’re overtired. Then, nothing leads to willingness.
Have a conversation with your kids about their teeth. Show them that brushing their teeth isn’t a weird, mean thing parents make them do because parents aren’t fun.
Talk with them about what their teeth do. Discuss how teeth need to be cleaned twice a day to be able to do all the work required of them.
Then, remind them of why they’re doing what they’re doing while you’re brushing their teeth.
“Our teeth are full of strawberries and ice cream and all the other yummy dessert we had earlier. We have to scrub, scrub, scrub to make them clean again!”
As they get older, explain what their teeth do. Show them how their teeth hold a place for their adult teeth.
When kids know why they’re doing what you’re asking them to do, they’re likely to be more responsive to it.
2. Let Them Pick Their Toothbrush
Kids want a little bit of control, and if you can let them have control over little aspects in life, they’re more apt to want to engage in those activities.
Let kids pick out their toothbrush. Make it a fun activity that you do together. Maybe even pick out your toothbrush at the same time so you can coordinate.
You can also let them pick out (or choose from acceptable options) the kind of toothpaste they want to use. It stops them from having to use a toothpaste they don’t like the texture or taste of and places them in control of the dental hygiene process.
3. Brush Your Teeth Together
Make this part of the day a time you spend together. Brush your teeth at the same time as your kids to show them that everyone brushes their teeth – it’s not punishment.
Don’t stare darkly into the mirror, though. Add some fun.
Maybe play monkey-see, monkey- do with them.
Here are a couple of suggestions to make the process look fun:
- Have your child copy you – turn it into a fun game
- Hum a tune or dance to show that it doesn’t have to be so boring
Playing a game together in the bathroom shows them that not only does everybody brush their teeth, but it doesn’t have to be a chore.
Plus, if you can find a way to distract them from the monotony of hygiene, then they’ll forget about the time lost and will be more likely to do it on their own.
Remember, kids should be supervised while brushing their teeth until they’re around eight years old. So, there’s no reason not to be in the bathroom anyway.
4. Create a Rewards System
Rewards are excellent motivators for reinforcing good behavior and make establishing a routine of dental hygiene much easier.
You’re also more likely to get the job done without tears if there’s something fun at the end.
Setting up a rewards system means deciding between providing an instant or delayed reward. This is a personal decision, and the system that works best will depend on your child (and often your child’s age).
Do they love working towards a big reward? Create a rewards chart. Keep track of the number of days they brush their teeth without complaining or having a meltdown. Let them see you add a sticker to their chart when they’ve done well! Better yet, let them choose and add the sticker to their chart for an extra reward.
When you reach a certain number of days or stickers, provide a big reward like a new toy, a trip to the zoo, more screen time, or whatever most interest them.
As they get older, let them choose their own reward to work towards.
Younger children often need instant rewards. Offer extra screen time or another bedtime story as a reward for their good behavior. Make sure they receive the reward right away, so they associate fun with good hygiene.
5. Set-up a Routine
Keep brushing on a schedule so kids know when to expect it.
By having them brush every day at the same time, they’ll know that there’s a dedicated time to brush and they shouldn’t expect to be doing anything else at the time.
Don’t stop the schedule during the summer or on vacation. Let it become second nature to them to foster good habits.
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