It is very important to establish good oral hygiene habits at a young age. Studies have shown that poor diet, poor habits of food intake, and inadequate oral hygiene maintenance (such as failure to brush teeth regularly) during the first two years of life can be related to tooth decay in children. A child who develops caries (cavities) in their primary teeth is more likely to develop caries in their permanent teeth than a child with healthy teeth. Parents need to serve as consistent role models, setting the example of maintaining a proper oral hygiene routine to help ensure the development of strong and healthy teeth in their children.
One integral part of the daily hygiene routine that should be taught as a habit is brushing teeth. Social stimuli such as praise are highly effective with children, and they learn best by imitation, so by seeing their parents practice this habit regularly and being praised by doing the same, tooth brushing can be established as part of their daily routine. It is recommended that toothpaste with an age-adapted content of fluoride be used with children.
This can be a difficult habit to establish, as it is challenging even for adults. Again, imitation and praise can help in teaching children how to floss, as well as a reward system. Explain the purpose of flossing – that brushing doesn’t reach all the areas in between teeth, and it’s important to remove as much food debris and plaque as possible to keep bacteria from eating away at the teeth enamel – so that children understand why it is necessary.
The first visit to the dentist is an especially important one because it is during that appointment that the relationship is established. Dentists will make special accommodations for their younger patients to make them feel more comfortable, reduce any anxiety, and make them feel at ease. They want children to understand that the dentist office should not be a scary place, but it is there to help keep them healthy. If a good relationship is established from the beginning, it should be easy from there on out to keep up with dental exams and cleanings twice a year.
If any part of the oral hygiene routine is difficult to establish and maintain in your children, oral hygiene counseling may be needed. These sessions are conducted by dental hygienists and aim to educate children on the importance of a daily oral care routine and will practice those skills with them. Receiving instruction from professionals can be especially beneficial as it ensures that children are practicing those habits correctly.