Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases affecting children today, but the good news is they are almost completely preventable. According to the Center for Disease Control, about one-third of all cavities can be prevented by fluoride varnish, which children can obtain from dental applications, fluoride-treated water, and toothpaste containing fluoride. Below, we outline seven healthy habits that will make dental health more fun for your children.
Making this activity part of what you do as a family helps children establish a healthy routine. When your child sees you taking care of your own teeth, they will feel encouraged to do the same and look forward to that time together. Be sure to brush thoroughly and floss, along with completing any other routines recommended by your dentist.
Teeth should be brushed for at least two minutes, but this can be hard for children to count out in their heads. Use an hourglass or digital timer to mark exactly two minutes. Allow your child to flip the hourglass or program the timer to foster their own independence and make the activity more engaging and memorable.
Children enjoy having objects that they helped select. Allow them to select their own toothbrush at the store. Make sure it has soft bristles that are appropriate for young children. Many stores offer kid-friendly toothbrushes with cartoons or superheroes on the handle, which can also make brushing more exciting and personalized.
You can make brushing fun by using a special toothbrush, but don’t forget to have your child select their favorite flavor of toothpaste, too. Traditional peppermint may not be as exciting for young children, so look for whimsical flavors like bubblegum, strawberry shortcake, or wild cherry. Most manufacturers offer colorful and flavorful toothpaste for children while still including the proper fluoride and cleansing needed for cavity prevention.
For young children who are reluctant to establish an oral hygiene routine, a friendly competition can nudge them in the proper direction. Encourage parents, older siblings, and anyone in your household to enter the competition. See who can brush his or her teeth for a full two minutes without getting tired or distracted.
If your child enjoys competing against family members, take it one step further with a chart that allows children to earn gold stars for each night they complete their oral hygiene routine. This serves as a visual reminder of all the required steps (brushing for two minutes, flossing, etc.) and provides a tactile reward when applying the gold star. This is another activity the whole family can participate in!
A great way to ensure every dentist visit is a positive experience is by combining it with another activity your child loves. This reduces anxiety when they know an appointment is coming soon and allows them to remember the event fondly. Some children may enjoy taking a special picnic with snacks that promote healthy teeth, or visiting a park or museum indoors.
By taking actions that make dental care fun, you are protecting your child’s oral health while also establishing good habits for the future. Most dental insurance providers cover preventative costs such as checkups, so be sure to visit your child’s dentist every six months. Regular visits combined with proper brushing and flossing are the best way to prevent unwanted cavities for years to come.