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How (and Why) to Encourage Healthy Brushing and Flossing Habits in Your Child

Encourage Healthy Brushing and Flossing Habits in Your Child

It’s tough to understate the importance of healthy teeth in your child, as they rely on them to learn how to chew and speak. One of the biggest threats to healthy teeth is tooth decay. The statistics are alarming — half of children between 6 and 8 have at least one cavity in their baby teeth, and half of teens between 12 and 19 have at least one cavity in their permanent teeth.

If you want to set your child up for a lifetime of great dental health, instilling healthy habits right from the start is key. The team here at Aura Dentistry, led by Drs. Negar Tehrani and Chang Yi, offers comprehensive pediatric dentistry services, and we can do our part to keep your child’s teeth healthy. What you do at home to promote dental health is equally important, so we want to provide you with a few tips.

1. Start early

As soon as your child’s first tooth comes in, you should start a dental regimen to underscore the importance of taking care of their teeth right from the start. 

There is a wide range of toothbrushes and toothpastes tailored to kids, and we suggest you allow your child to have some say in the process. For example, bring them to the store and encourage them to pick out a toothbrush that appeals to them, and you can experiment with the different flavors of toothpastes.

As soon as your child has two teeth next to each other — typically between the ages of 2 and 3 — incorporate flossing into the daily routine.

By making teeth cleaning a part of their routine early on, you can help them develop a great lifelong habit.

2. Demonstration works

You can explain all day long about how your child should brush and floss their teeth, but there’s nothing like a demonstration to drive the point home. We love a technique from a book called “Smile for the Dentist.”

Take an egg carton, preferably white, flip it over, and use a removable paint or substance to color each egg cup all the way around.

Now sit down with your child and explain that the carton is their teeth and challenge them to clean off each cup until it’s white again (you can use an old toothbrush and some yarn as floss). This fun game will give them a good visual when they brush and floss their own teeth.

3. Make it fun

Children have limited attention spans, so it’s helpful to make teeth cleaning fun and not a chore. For example, how you phrase teeth cleaning matters. When it’s nearing bedtime, you can say, “Now we get to go clean our teeth so that we can hop into bed,” rather than, “You have to clean your teeth before you go to bed.”

You can also play music or create games around brushing and flossing — practice counting as your child tackles each tooth, for example. Create funny tooth brushing moves and encourage victory smiles once they’re finished.

4. Passing the baton

During early teeth cleaning, you may have to do most of the work but allow your child to try as early as they’d like. Children love to feel empowered and part of the process.

If you’d like more ideas about helping your child maintain healthy teeth and gums, or you’d like our help kickstarting a good regimen, contact our office in McLean, Virginia, to set up an appointment.

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