Proper dental hygiene habits should start young and last a lifetime, and teaching your child how to brush, floss, and look after their teeth correctly is an investment that will pay health dividends for years into the future. Unfortunately, some children can be resistant to developing a good oral care routine, but following these tips will help smooth the path to making it a natural part of their day.
Set an Example
If your own oral care habits aren't as good as they might be, now is definitely the time to put that right. Children learn much about life through copying their parents, and teaching them by example is the first step towards their own exemplary hygiene routine. Even if you have no need to brush at the same time they do, it certainly won't hurt to give them a lead to follow.
Make Brushing Fun
Although proper oral care is an important business, that's not to say it can't be fun at the same time. Colorful toothbrushes, novelty toothpastes, dental floss featuring a favorite cartoon character - anything you can do to introduce a touch of entertainment value is helpful in stopping tooth care feeling like a chore. Also, consider buying a brightly colored egg timer or digital stopwatch that will keep them brushing for the recommended two minutes, and let them be in charge of starting and stopping the timer.
Involve Your Child From the Start
Although your child may need a little help with brushing to start with, try and instill good practices from the beginning. Make sure they're involved in the whole process, from putting the right amount of toothpaste onto the brush through to cleaning the brush afterwards, even if at first you're doing most of the work yourself. As they grow, young children love to assert their independence, and giving them responsibility over their own dental care is an effective way of encouraging them to take it seriously.
Be Firm with Routine
It's best to pick an oral care routine and stick to it as much as possible. If you decide to brush after breakfast and before bed, follow this religiously - if the routine becomes negotiable, it can soon be seen as an optional exercise. However, take care not to go too far in the other direction and turn it into a battle of wills - allow some leeway in setting up the routine, but be firm in applying it once agreed. Weave oral care into the daily routine - for instance, insist that teeth are brushed before any pre-bed TV is watched, and make sure there is enough time to do a thorough job before a favorite program starts.
Introduce Dental Appointments Early
Finally, get your child used to visiting the dentist from a very early age. Even if they have only a few teeth, take them with you to your own appointments and ask the dentist to take a look at your toddler's mouth too. There's no doubt that a dental surgery can be an intimidating place, so the earlier you begin, the more natural it'll seem. Don't, however, force the issue if your child is unwilling to be examined - taking things slowly will avoid a possible trauma that could echo well into adulthood.
The importance of a proper, regular oral care routine can't be overstated, and making it a normal part of your child's early life will stand them in good stead for avoiding future dental problems and the distress they cause.