Oral hygiene is as important as a healthy lifestyle and it all starts with you, because children adopt what they see. Here’s how to get a head start in boosting your child’s dental health — and keep it up.
Children should see a dentist early
They should have their first dental visit within six months of their first tooth coming in or at 12 months of age, whichever happens first. Taking them to the dentist at this young age not only lets the dentist assess the condition of the tooth or teeth, it also gets baby used to dental appointments early on and makes seeing the dentist a part of their routine. The second appointment to the dentist should be at the age of three, a trip considered as a reinforcement appointment. Avoid getting any procedures done on that visit, it should just be a simple visit to the dentist.
Make brushing teeth fun
Time around the sink can be more enjoyable if you let them pick a toothbrush that’s a fun shape or a favorite cartoon character — something that makes them excited to reach for the brush. With so many child-friendly designs and flavors available over the counter today, let them chose their own, and their toothpaste too. Children feel much better about activities in which they are involved.
Use a timer when brushing
Children are fascinated by timers, so use one when they are brushing. Or turn up music and let them listen to a favorite song as they get ready for the day. As long as their favorite jam is two minutes or more, you’ll be able to ensure they’re hitting the dentist-recommended amount of brushing time.
Teach that brushing is fun
Make sure that when parents brush, they smile a lot or make funny faces. You can even have your own funny song for tooth brushing — just make sure to treat it as a fun thing and not a task or a chore.
Make up a toothbrushing game
Take advantage of your child’s playful nature when teaching him how to take care of his teeth and improve his dental health. The earlier you start, the simpler the games can be. Just make sure to put a big smile on your face and keep the mood light. Try a copycat game. To play, brush your teeth and get a big mouthful of bubbles, and then smile wide and let the bubbles run down your chin and into the sink. It looks funny, but that is the point. Then have your child copy what you did. Next time, let your little one lead and be prepared to make a toothpaste moustache on your lip if that is where he leads the game.
Teeth brushing rewards
If messy games such as copycat are not your cup of tea, go with a reward system instead. Put stickers on the calendar each day after your child brushes and flosses; at the end of the week, let him pick a board game that the whole family can play together. This can be fun for the whole family, and it creates a connection in your child’s mind between dental care and having fun. Teaching your little ones about good dental health for kids is so important to lifelong dental habits that it is worth making some of the rewards big and memorable. Throw in a bigger reward for a full month of brushing and flossing, such as an evening at the movies or making your child’s favorite meal and dessert.
Befriend your dentist
Just like making daily brushing fun is important, so is making a trip to the dentist a good experience. After all, they’ll be visiting at least once a year for annual check-ups. Find a doctor who makes you and your children comfortable being in his or her office.
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Dr Amit Asudani
Dr Amit Asudani is an orthodontist and Invisalign specialist who works at Oval Dental Clinic in Dubai.