Oral hygiene habits such as brushing and flossing are absolutely essential if you want to keep your teeth and gums free of cavities and disease. However, many children struggle with the desire to brush and floss their teeth, which can be frustrating for parents. Here are 10 ways you can help make toothbrushing and other oral hygiene habits fun for your kiddos so their mouths stay healthy and strong!
Why Should You Have Good Oral Hygiene?
Did you know that oral health diseases are the most common diseases Americans face? Let’s take a look at some of the facts:
- Tooth decay (cavities) is the most common, “prevalent disease” in both children and adults.
- Gum disease affects an estimated 64.7 million Americans.
- By adulthood, more than 92% of people have had cavities at least once, if not many times.
- Untreated cavities grow larger, causing internal tooth infection, gum disease (with receding gums) and tooth loss.
- More than 120 million Americans have lost at least one permanent tooth, most of the time due to decay.
- A healthy adult mouth has 32 natural teeth. However, the average adult only has 25 teeth or less.
- More than 36 million Americans have no natural teeth left in their mouth.
The good part about these oral health problems is that they are preventable with good oral hygiene!
How Do You Keep Your Teeth Healthy?
The American Dental Association recommends oral hygiene care such as:
- Brushing your teeth every single day, at least 2 times a day (or after every meal), for at least 2 minutes at a time. Brush with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use fluoride products. Fluoride comes in gels, foams and toothpastes and is a mineral that will help prevent demineralization of the teeth and tooth decay.
- Floss 1-2 times a day, making sure to use new floss each time. Floss up into your gum line between all the teeth and scrape your teeth as you go to remove extra plaque.
- Use mouthwash with fluoride to both strengthen your teeth and to kill decay-causing bacteria that will produce plaque.
- Visit the dentist at least twice a year for dental cleanings, comprehensive exams and oral cancer screenings.
Oral Hygiene for Kids
When children are still in the infant and toddler stage, you will be the one brushing and flossing their teeth for them, which is the easy part. Use these guidelines for those that can’t care for their teeth yet:
- Brush your infant’s teeth at least twice a day, especially before bed. Use a rice-sized amount of infant fluoride toothpaste and brush your baby’s teeth up to 2 minutes, depending on how many teeth they have.
- Floss your infant’s teeth once they come in and are close enough together that flossing is needed. Flossers are great tools to help small children learn how to floss.
- If your infant or child is prone to cavities, ask your dentist about dental sealants. These are thin, plastic coatings we can paint onto the baby teeth to protect them from decay.
- Never leave a bottle with your baby for naps and nighttime or they can get “baby bottle tooth decay”. Don’t give your infant juice, sodas or other sugary drinks.
Making Oral Hygiene Fun for Kids
Now your kid is older, so you’ll need strategies to help them brush and floss. Try these 10 methods:
- Start on a routine. When you have routines, and something becomes second nature, it’s more likely to be done each day. Make up a routine that works well for your kids and have them stick to it each day.
- Reward good oral hygiene habits. When you children do great at brushing or flossing (or do it at all) come up with a reward system. Have a sticker chart they add to or have them earn points towards a small toy or privilege each week.
- Set timers like a race. Set a 2-minute timer and have each child brush really well or race. You can check your child’s progress with gingivitis tablets (from your dentist) that turn colors to help them see how good they are brushing during their 2 minutes.
- Make each day different. Change up what you do morning and night with the routine. Have kids watch 2-minute video clips if they struggle to focus. The next day, tell or listen to a story for that amount of time. Play your kid’s favorite song. Whatever you do, switch it up each day to keep them focused and interested!
- Use characters. Get a toothbrush with their favorite character on it and tubes of ADA-approved toothpaste. Keep oral hygiene products interesting and colorful!
- Toothpaste choices. There are many colorful toothpastes that add edible confetti, sparkles and colors for kids and teens. Using these kinds can make toothbrushing more fun for kids.
- Teach correct technique. If your child doesn’t know how to do something properly, they may avoid doing it (like flossing). Teach them proper technique so they are more confident.
- Use technology conveniently. If you can’t get your child to brush at night, have them do it at a convenient time (such as when they are watching commercials).
- Let your child choose. A child or teen is more likely to brush and floss when they choose the time that works for them. Also try taking them to the grocery store and have them pick out their own oral hygiene products, so they feel more ownership with their oral hygiene.
- Set the example. Brush your teeth while they brush theirs and teach them why it’s important. If it’s a family affair, everyone is likely to stick to the routine and follow through with good oral hygiene.
If you’re still struggling with oral hygiene in your home, see what we recommend! It may just take a trip to the dentist (and a few cavities) to get the point across to kids for why they brush and floss. Call Dr. Evanson’s office today at (720) 409-0008 for your questions!
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