How to Instill Good Oral Hygiene Habits in Your Kids

Childhood cavities may not be as common today as they were when you or your parents were kids, but they still occur all too often. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says almost one out of every five preschoolers and about half of kids ages six to 11 have had at least one cavity. For kids between 12 and 19 years of age, that number is even higher.

As a parent, helping your child learn and practice good oral hygiene habits is the most important thing you can do to help your child avoid oral health problems — not just now, but during adulthood, too. At Cherry Family Dental in San Jose, California, we help our patients — and their parents — learn the ins and out of good oral health habits, so kids have the best chance of preventing cavities, damaged teeth, and even tooth loss during childhood and adulthood. Here’s how you can play a role.

Learn habits early

The CDC calls cavities “one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States.” Fortunately, tooth decay is preventable — as long as you start instilling good habits while your child is young, ideally before they have their first cavity. Starting a new habit can be challenging no matter what your age, but these tips can help.

Make healthy snacks a priority

Instead of stocking your snack cabinet with cookies, candy, and sugary drinks, opt for healthy options, like fresh fruit, cheese, and yogurt. You can find some food suggestions here, along with some background information about the importance of good nutrition in maintaining your child’s healthy smile.

Let your child choose their tools

Toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste are the tools your child will use to fight cavities and letting them choose which tools they use is a good way to get them motivated right from the beginning. It doesn’t matter whether your child opts for a battery-powered brush or a manual brush — as long as they use the brush properly and for the correct amount of time, they can be equally effective in preventing decay. Just be sure the toothpaste contains fluoride and has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

Make brushing fun

For younger kids, keeping a brushing calendar can help them stay on track, especially when you mark completed brushings with a gold star or other sticker. The ADA offers a printable calendar on their website, or you can let your child purchase or design their own chart. Using a colorful two-minute sand timer or a toothbrush that plays a tune for two minutes is a good way to ensure kids brush for the amount of time recommended by the ADA.

Help them understand why

It’s easier to develop a new habit when you understand the benefit that comes from it. The ADA website offers loads of resources for helping your child understand how tooth decay happens and what they can do to prevent it.

Make dental visits a good thing

Maybe you’ve had some less-than-ideal dental visits in your own past, and now, you’re less than excited about your twice-yearly checkups. But even if you feel a little anxious about seeing the dentist, you don’t want your child to develop that same anxiety or worry. Make your child’s dental checkups a positive experience by not telegraphing your own anxiety ahead of time. Instead, underscore the importance of having checkups, and let them see you visiting your dentist without complaints.

Set a good example

Kids learn a lot from what they see, and as a parent, you have a major influence on the habits they pick up. When they see you brushing and flossing regularly, opting for healthy snacks, and visiting the dentist on a regular basis, they’ll be far more likely to develop these habits themselves. In the end, you both benefit!

You’re never too young — or too old

There’s no “wrong” age to learn better oral health habits. Whether your child is a toddler, a preteen, or a teen, you can have a positive influence on their oral health. The habits you start before your child reaches adulthood can help them enjoy healthier teeth and more beautiful smiles for the rest of their lives. To schedule a checkup for your child or to learn how we can help you instill good oral hygiene habits, call Cherry Family Dental at 408-495-4730 or use our online form to schedule a visit today.

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