Saturday 19 January 2019

How to help your kids form great dental habits

mother and father brushing teeth with their children
mother and father brushing teeth with their children

Great dental health starts in childhood. From the moment a child loses his or her baby teeth, their dental responsibility cranks up a notch.

Suddenly they are caring for the teeth they will have for the rest of their life. There are no more second chances, no subsequent rounds of baby teeth. It’s impossible to convey the importance of this significant change to children unless you have been instilling them with good dental habits from day one.

Habits don’t form overnight. They require repetition, patience and discipline (from both the parent and the child) in order to become second nature. We perform habits instinctively, ritualistically, without thinking. It can sometimes feel like we’re on auto-pilot. Habits can be good (like brushing your teeth first thing in the morning) or bad (like eating chocolate in bed before falling asleep). It’s crucial that children learn the need for good dental habits and incorporate them into a routine.

It takes a lot of care to ensure that teeth stay healthy into adulthood – avoiding any cavities or structural issues. Dental hygiene is something your child needs to think about every day. Here’s how to get them into that mind-set.

Set a good example

Anyone who has ever uttered bad language within ear-shot of a child will know that they are far more likely to mimic that then the ‘please and thank yous’ you’ve been actively encouraging. The moral of the story? Children tend to have a funny way of doing what you do, not what you say.

There’s little point in preaching about the importance of good dental hygiene, the dangers of sugary snacks and the virtues of brushing if your child never sees you live by your own rules. Set an example. Brush your teeth with them. Let them see it is a life-time habit and not just a chore enforced on a child.

Limit sugary snacks during the day

The more chocolate, fizzy drinks and sweets you allow your child to have – the more they’ll want. We’re not saying you should staunchly disallow all treats, but set rules when it comes to sugar. And stick to them. For example, it’s generally not a good idea to include sugary snacks in your child’s school lunch box. This sugar would sit on your child’s teeth all day, eroding the enamel. Try to position sweet treats closer to scheduled teeth-brushing times – to limit the effects.

Avoid scaremongering

Trying to make children understand the gravity of teeth decay, the necessity of brushing and the importance of dental hygiene can be difficult and at times frustrating. You see an obvious truth, they see a laborious task mandated by their parents. Avoid the temptation to scare them into action. Saying ‘if you don’t brush your teeth, they will fall out’ or ‘if you don’t brush, the dentist will be cross’ will only serve to give them a life-long anxiety of dental check-ups. Steer them with positives – not negatives.

Make it fun

And what could be more positive than a fun routine built around the night-time and early-morning teeth-care ritual? Maybe you’ll sing a teeth song together or do a little dance. Young children might enjoy showing teddy bear how to brush his teeth – just as you showed them. This sort of teaching will reinforce their own learning of the all-important brushing technique.

Book regular dentist appointments

Children should attend a dentist every six months and, depending on their plaque build-up and the condition of their teeth, a hygienist once or twice a year. These dental check-ups are extremely important. While the adult teeth may be fully formed, the child’s mouth is still growing and changing. Regular dentist visits help to anticipate and correct any potential problems like over-crowding, gum recession, cavities etc. Don’t build up the visits in the child’s mind as something to be nervous about. They should be seen as perfectly routine and ordinary.

Make sure they brush twice daily

Daily brushing is the cardinal rule of teeth. Children should learn to brush their own teeth twice a day for a duration of two minutes. As well as making sure they actually brush when they’re supposed to, it’s essential to also monitor their technique. Children tend to just brush what they can see (ie the front teeth) so you need to teach them to care for all the tricky-to-reach, back-of-the-mouth teeth. They need to learn not to brush too vigorously as this can damage delicate gums and enamel. Finally, most children love the taste of toothpaste and tend to swallow it rather than spitting it out. This needs to be avoided.

Teach them not to share toothbrushes

Most of the time we’re teaching our children how to share. Except when it comes to toothbrushes, ice-creams, lollipops or anything else that sits in the mouth. Passing something like this from one mouth to another can spread bacteria and increase the risk of germs that cause dental cavities.

While you’re instilling good dental habits in your child, you may even clarify your own, ensuring optimum dental health for the whole family.

Aquafresh Advance toothpaste is specially designed by dental experts for children 9-12 years to provide expert protection for new permanent teeth whilst being gentle on vulnerable enamel.

To find out more about Aquafresh and to have the chance to meet a Gaelic football legend, come down to a Roadshow happening near you. For more information, visit the All-Ireland Smiles Facebook page.

Sponsored by: GSK

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