From the moment your child gets that first tooth, brushing should become a daily routine. It’s recommended that you use a child’s brush and a small grain of fluoride paste twice daily. When they have multiple teeth, flossing becomes part of the practice. Moving from you managing these tasks to them achieving dental hygiene independence varies in difficulty from child to child. But it’s important that you motivate them early and often to be self-reliant and always keep their teeth clean.
Children want to be like grownups and make parents proud. That’s a message that you can reinforce from the very beginning. When your child is small and their part is rinsing and spitting, take a moment to say, “You do it just like a grownup.”
Show them how big people add paste, hold the toothbrush, use floss and cleanup up afterwards. Encourage your child’s progress and let them know they getting close to doing it “all by themselves.” Positive reinforcement can also include telling them how they mastered a task at a younger age than you did. A “wow” once in a while can be a real source of pride for a child as well. Impressing mommy or daddy means the world to children.
Age Appropriate Learning
It’s important that the challenges parents present children are reasonable for their age. Trying to press a child to do things they’re not equipped for can take a discouraging turn. You want oral hygiene to be a life-long commitment. These first steps can build a foundation that carries into teen years and adulthood. No pressure.
Most youngsters are brushing on their own at about six years old. If they have the dexterity to tie their own shoes, brushing should be manageable. So, keep that in mind when you want make the independence move.
Flossing requires more hand skill. You’ll likely be helping them floss or have an easy flossing tool handy until they are about 10 years old. But don’t hesitate to work on proper flossing techniques. They may be able to manage a couple of easy to access front tooth gaps sooner. That can be an opportunity for praise.
Own the Brush
Parents come up with all types of fun games to get kids to brush. There are songs, games, even the use of props like dolls and action figures with teeth are employed for practice. They definitely create a positive vibe about oral hygiene.
One method that flies under the radar is allowing kids to take ownership. We know from our adult experiences that people do better with their jobs when they feel a sense of ownership. Children are just smaller versions of adults.
Take them to the store and work with them to select an age-appropriate toothbrush and tooth paste. By allowing them to make the choices, they’ll gain a sense of inclusion and ownership that can elevate their attitudes about oral hygiene.