Teaching Kids Good Oral Hygiene Habits: A Guide for Parents

African American man laying on the floor reading to his sonEstablishing good oral hygiene habits in your children can ensure they continue properly caring for their teeth as they grow older. Children who practice good dental care routines as toddlers are more likely to take care of their teeth properly as teens and into adulthood. With good habits, your children can have healthy, beautiful teeth for a lifetime. Our guide for parents can help you instill those good habits in your child from a young age.

Lead by Example

Children learn by watching others. Let your toddler see you brushing and flossing your teeth as part of your regular bedtime routine. Kids are natural mimics and want to do what their parents do. If they ask to try brushing, give them their own child-sized toothbrush. They may start by chewing on the brush, but this gets them used to the idea of brushing and the feel of the brush in their mouth.

Visit your own dentist twice a year for a checkup and dental cleaning. Studies show that children who see their parents visit the dentist regularly are twice as likely to see their own dentist as adults.

Show Them How to Brush & Floss

Let your toddler brush their own teeth with your guidance, showing them proper brushing technique:

  • Use only a small amount of toothpaste.
  • Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums.
  • Brush the teeth using short back-and-forth strokes or a circular motion.
  • Brush all surfaces.
  • Don’t forget the back of the teeth.
  • Brush for at least two minutes.

You need to supervise your child’s brushing efforts until they are 7 or 8 when they can effectively handle brushing on their own. To ensure your child brushes for at least two minutes, set a timer or play a song they enjoy that lasts 2-3 minutes.

Flossing is more difficult for children. You should demonstrate how to do it, but you may have to assist your child until they are 10 before they can floss adequately independently.

Find Fun Oral Care Supplies

Kids are less likely to skip brushing if they get to choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste. Plenty of ADA-approved toothpastes for children come in flavors they’ll love, including bubble gum and fruit flavors. Toothbrushes with their favorite cartoon characters or neon colors can make brushing more fun and give your child a feeling of more control over their oral hygiene routine.

Reward Good Oral Hygiene Habits

When your child first starts brushing and flossing, consider small rewards. If they brush and floss without a fight or complaining for a week, add a gold star to a brushing chart. Once they get four stars, perhaps they can stay up a half-hour later on the weekend, or you can put quarters in a jar and let them buy a small toy once they’ve saved enough money. Avoid candy or food as rewards; you don’t want to defeat the purpose of brushing and flossing by giving your child too many sweets!

Read Books About Dental Health

It may surprise you, but there are many children’s books about going to the dentist, brushing your teeth, and general oral hygiene. A few titles we like include:

  • The Teeth Monsters, by Rachel Mintz (a coloring and activity book)
  • Just Going to the Dentist, by Mercer Mayer
  • The Tooth Book, by Mark Bacera
  • Sugarbug Doug: All About Cavities Plaque, and Teeth, by Dr. Ben Magleby
  • Why Do I Need to Brush My Teeth? By Caressa Simmons & Summer Hao

Make Visits to the Dentist Fun

Your child should visit our office twice a year for an examination and, if needed, professional teeth cleaning. Dr. Vakili, Dr. Lam, and our dental care team make every dental appointment stress-free and pleasant for even our youngest patients. Turn a visit to our office into something your child looks forward to by combining it with an outing. Go out to lunch, see a movie, or go to the park after the visit. Associating visits to the dentist with pleasant experiences will encourage your child to continue visiting the dentist long after they are adults.

To schedule an appointment for your child, contact our office at San Mateo Office Phone Number 650-372-9292. We look forward to meeting them!