Not only is oral hygiene crucial to your health, but it’s also essential for your children. The American Dental Association recommends teaching all kids the basics of good oral hygiene since they’re more likely to develop cavities earlier than adults. But what exactly does that mean? In this post, you’ll learn five habits you should teach your kids, so they can maintain healthy teeth and gums as they grow up.
Brush twice a day
Brushing twice a day is essential, especially after meals and before bed. This will help clean between teeth and remove food particles that can cause decay and cavities. The most effective way to brush is using a soft-bristle brush with a small head, which fits into small spaces between the teeth and reaches hard-to-reach areas at the gum line.
You should also use fluoride toothpaste—it helps strengthen your enamel and prevent tooth decay by slowing down acid production in your teeth (acids cause decay). If you don’t have time for two full brushing sessions, try this trick: Wet your toothbrush bristles under warm water for 30 seconds before brushing, so they swell up and become softer.
Then vigorously scrub each section of your mouth using circular motions until it feels like all those hard-to-reach places are gone! Another good way to maintain a healthy mouth is by flossing, which you’ll learn more about in the following sections.
Flossing is essential to oral care and should be taught as such. Flossing removes food particles between teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach. It also helps to reduce the risk of gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
Have your child begin flossing before their permanent teeth come in, so they learn good habits early on. Teach your child to floss by having them wrap the floss around their index fingers and showing them how to move it up and down between each tooth. You can also demonstrate how to use dental picks or interdental brushes if they are more familiar with those tools.
If your child is older and needs more challenge, you can use floss threaders to help them remove food particles between their teeth. Floss threaders are also great for kids who have difficulty flossing because they can’t reach all the spaces between their teeth.
Mouthwash is a great tool to have in your oral hygiene arsenal. It can help with bad breath, tooth sensitivity, plaque buildup, and a dry mouth—but it’s not a substitute for brushing and flossing.
Mouthwash formulas vary depending on the brand you choose. Some will be alcohol-based, while others will be oil-free. Some will contain natural ingredients, while others will contain artificial colors and flavors (which may be good or bad, depending on how sensitive your teeth are). A good rule of thumb is to avoid mouthwash containing preservatives such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate because they can cause staining if you consume too much over time.
Eat a balanced diet and limit sugar intake
Eating a balanced diet of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meat and fish, and plenty of water is vital for oral health. A healthy diet will also help you maintain a healthy weight. The less time your teeth spend with sugary or acidic foods, the better off they’ll be.
Avoid processed foods as much as possible: The refining process removes most of the natural nutrition from the food and can leave it devoid of vitamins and minerals that may benefit your overall health—not just your oral health!
Finally, limit foods with added sugar. This includes sweetened beverages like soda pop (regular or diet) and sports drinks like Gatorade. These drinks are marketed for athletes but are frequently consumed by children year-round because they are perceived as “fun” beverages rather than health supplements (which they should be).
Book dental checkups regularly
While brushing, flossing, and rinsing do a great job of keeping your mouth clean, these habits don’t address the full scope of dental health. Dental checkups are a crucial part of oral hygiene for everyone, but even more so for children. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that all children see a dentist by age one and follow up with regular appointments every six months until they turn 18. A visit to the tooth doctor can reveal cavities or other problems in their early stages, which means you can take action before they become serious issues.
Regular visits to the dentist can also help you and your child learn the proper way to brush, floss, and rinse. Seeing a professional will allow them to show you how to do it correctly so that your child isn’t just repeating what they learned at home.
Teaching your children the importance of oral hygiene will help them maintain healthy teeth and gums and serve as a guiding example of how to care for their own bodies. While you shouldn’t pressure your kids into brushing their teeth, these tips should give you an excellent foundation to begin a conversation on the topic and guide your children toward better oral health.