Teaching your children effective brushing habits can be a challenging process, but the benefits are well worth the effort if you get your kids started early. While younger children will need plenty of supervision and guidance, older children need to branch out on their own and start brushing their own teeth. Here are some tips to help your children develop good brushing habits as well as guidelines on when to start brushing.
When To Start
Baby teeth actually begin to develop in the womb, which means that good dental care for your baby begins almost immediately. At first their teeth will be hidden under the gums, but you can still clean their mouth by wiping the gums with a clean, wet washcloth. This will clear away any bacteria that may be on their gums. Do this twice a day just like you would with brushing, and try clean after a feeding.
Once the teeth start to protrude, you'll want to pick up an infant toothbrush and an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste. Children's toothpaste will be fine as long it is ADA approved, and kids don't need extra benefits like whitening right now. You'll want to use a minuscule amount of toothpaste each time you brush. A little spec or a dot the size of a grain of rice is what most dentists recommend. It's natural that your child will swallow a tiny bit of the toothpaste, but try to keep them from swallowing much if any of it. This is why it is important to keep the amount of toothpaste on the brush small. If you apply to much, make sure to remove some before you begin.
Brush gently all around their teeth and get both the front and the back of their teeth. Brushing their teeth is not unlike brushing yours except you'll want to make sure you're doing it gently. As your child grows older you'll want to teach them to spit the toothpaste out after brushing. Again it is important to minimize the amount they swallow. After age 3, you can increase the amount of toothpaste you're using to double what you put on the brush as an infant.
Demonstrate Good Brushing Habits
You'll continue to brush your child's teeth in this manner until they reach age 6 or so. Make sure you reinforce spitting habits so they are spitting out the toothpaste after each brushing session. Once they are old enough, it is time to turn the brushing duties over to them. However don't just leave them in the bathroom to brush alone, stay and supervise their brushing habits to make sure they are doing it right.
A great way to reinforce good brushing habits is to brush your teeth alongside your child. This will show them that you think brushing your teeth is important too, and they get a chance to watch and mimic you in the mirror. Offer patient instructions as they learn and make sure you brush long enough so they get the hang of how much time should pass before they're done brushing.
Make Brushing A Game
Use your child's vivid imagination to make brushing into more than just standing in front of the mirror with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Telling a story while they brush or turning the act of brushing into a game is a great way to keep children active and focused while they brush. It can be a game that isn't finished until they brush every part of their teeth both front and back, and heroes, villains and other creatures can make guest appearances each time they brush. Colorful and character brushes are another way to create more enthusiasm around brushing, just make sure they are ADA approved before you buy.
Final Thoughts On Children's Brushing Habits
Make sure you stay positive about dental care when you teach your children good brushing habits. Brushing shouldn't be a loathsome chore but rather an easy to do activity that takes only a few minutes out of the day. The same goes for the dentist. Even if you have fears around going to the dentist, make sure you don't suggest to your children that they should feel the same. Be positive about both your and their dental visits and you'll sow the seeds of a proper dental care mindset in them early. Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry offers care for all ages, and if your child is in need of a visit or checkup, we encourage you to schedule a visit today!
Image two courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.