The Best Ways to Instill Good Oral Health Habits in Kids
How to keep your children from getting cavities
Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is one of the most chronic yet entirely preventable childhood diseases. Those who practice good oral hygiene have a lower risk and can entirely prevent tooth decay. That’s why it’s super important that kids establish healthy oral habits sooner rather than later. Parents and caregivers are one of the most important ways to ensure this happens. Your consistent effort today to help your kids develop good oral health habits will pay off with a lifetime of oral health.
8 Tips to Establish Good Oral Hygiene Habits with Kids
Nearly one in five children under the age of 5 has experienced tooth decay according to the “State of Little Teeth Report” from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). While this number is troubling, it’s very possible to dramatically impact it. Good dental habits and regular dental visits starting by age 1 (or when the first teeth pop through the gums) can slow or reverse the tooth decay process in children.
- First just any other habit, repetition is key when trying to establish good oral hygiene habits. Here are some additional helpful tips to help you form good oral hygiene habits in your home:
- Wipe your infant child’s gums with a clean cloth two times a day before their teeth start to breakthrough. Once teeth come in, it’s time to start brushing them morning and evening with a soft small-bristled brush.
- Children should visit the dentist no later than their first birthday (or as soon as teeth break through gums).
- Parents or caregivers need to monitor tooth brushing and flossing for children under the age of six. Kids this age should only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
- It’s important to show children how to brush along the gum line of their teeth to keep gums healthy.
- Make sure your child has mastered tooth brushing before expecting them to be proficient at flossing. Focus on one thing at a time until they get it down. Typically, children under the age of ten will still need help flossing.
- Model good oral health habits yourself. As with so many things in parenting, kids will act like you before they will do what you say. Make sure you model good oral health habits by brushing twice a day and flossing.
- Make sure to buy toothpaste with fluoride, fluoride has proven to have good effects on your teeth.
- Ask your child’s dentist if they would recommend dental sealants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), applying dental sealants to the molars prevents 80% of cavities.
Seeing is Believing: The Egg Experiment
Sometimes it’s easier (and more effective) to show rather than tell when it comes to getting children to care about their oral health. That’s where the egg experiment comes in. This simple experiment demonstrates to your kids the benefits of healthy eating and regular brushing.
Tooth enamel, the hard outer part of your teeth, is similar to the hard outer shell of an egg. Even though they aren’t exactly the same:
- Eggshells are made mostly from calcium carbonate; tooth enamel is composed mostly of carbonate
- Both tooth enamel and eggshells have color ranging from light yellow to white
- Eggshell protects the egg just like tooth enamel protects the pulp (nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue)
What You Need for the Egg Experiment
- Hard-boiled egg
- Can of dark cola (Coke, Pepsi)
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Put the hard-boiled egg in the cup.
- Cover the egg with cola. Let the egg sit in the cola for one day.
- After the egg sits in a cola bath for one day, have your child take it out and examine it.
- Add fluoride toothpaste to the toothbrush and brush the egg.
Option #2: Another version of this experiment adds a second cup filled with milk or water. Fill one cup with the soda as instructed above and then fill another with milk or water to compare what happens to the egg after being submerged in the different liquids for a day.
Discussion and Learning
After your child sees the way brushing can wash away the brown film left on the egg by the cola, discuss these topics:
- Why do you think the egg changed color (in the cola cup)? Did the egg in the milk or water cup change color?
- After we eat or drink sugary things, a sticky coating called plaque forms on our teeth.
- Plaque leads to cavities if we don’t brush it away.
- Our teeth can be stained by the things we drink and eat.
- What do you think brushing does for our teeth?
- Brushing and flossing help remove food, sugar, and bacteria from our teeth
Motivate your Children to Practice Good Oral Health Habits
If your family still struggles with good oral health habits, sometimes a bit of motivation is just what the “dentist” ordered. Even adults respond well to a little bit of motivation to establish valuable life habits. So, here are some ideas to try when you want to motivate your kids to practice better oral hygiene:
- Let your child pick out a new toothbrush (every three months) and select their toothpaste from your approved options.
- Rewards! Implement a star chart or another reward system to motivate your child to brush morning and night (no candy or sugary treats as rewards).
- Stories! Share a tale of tooth-fighting glory while helping your children brush their teeth. Maybe as you brush you are on an adventure to fight pesky plaque or are looking for cavity bugs. Let your imagination inspire you!
- Make brushing a family affair! A family that brushes together has good oral hygiene habits together.
- Who wouldn’t want to brush their teeth when you do it to music? Whether it’s a dance party or a song you play from this playlist that’s all about brushing your teeth, music can make the time fly. They are almost all about 2 minutes long which is the perfect amount of time to be sure your teeth are clean.
- Use technology! There are many apps available that make brushing your teeth fun and help make sure you hit the 2-minute recommended mark for brushing.
- Set your two-minute timer. Make it a challenge to keep brushing until the timer goes off!
It might seem like your child will NEVER establish good oral hygiene at the rate you’re going. Don’t despair. This too shall pass with consistent effort on your part. In the meantime, be sure you schedule your child’s dental checkup and cleaning-another important task for a lifetime of good oral health. Request an appointment online today!