It’s important to start your children brushing at an early age since their minds are just at the right place for developing healthy behaviors that can last a lifetime.
It’s never too early to start good dental habits. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, a child’s first visit to the dentist should come as soon as the first tooth comes in, usually between 6 and 12 months old.
But even before that first tooth comes in, the AAPD advises that it’s a good idea to gently wipe baby’s gums with a soft washcloth or gauze at bath time. Doing so can remove plaque and bacteria that might later lead to cavities. As soon as teeth come in, they should be brushed. And as soon as a child is able to brush alone, teach them how. The dentist’s office staff is your partner in teaching your child those good dental habits.
Conventional wisdom tells us that repetition is the best way to make something a habit. The first step in ensuring that your child will brush his teeth each and every day is to make sure he brushes for 30 days in a row. After a month, the task becomes a routine. Even if you have to brush the child’s teeth for them at first, make sure it’s done every day for 30 straight days. Keep track: If even one day is missed, you may have to start all over again to make the habit stick.
One way to make tooth brushing an unforgettable time of day is to let your child have fun with it. Let them pick out their own toothbrush. Choosing the toothbrush allows your child to feel involved in their own decisions. Of course, you want them to brush their teeth whether they like it or not, involving them will let them feel like they’ve had some say in the matter. There are a lot of great children’s toothbrushes on the market today, such as brightly colored ones and toothbrushes with favorite characters on them. If the child really likes the toothbrush, they’ll likely look forward to the time of day when they get to use it.
Another way to encourage children to have fun during brush time is to play some favorite music, especially if it is fun or silly. Children also love to create their own music, and you could come up with a special tooth brushing song together.
It is a good idea to brush your teeth at the same time as your child. Children enjoy doing activities together, and if you brush your teeth with them, they may feel like they’re sharing an activity with you instead of being forced to do a chore. They may also feel more encouraged to participate in proper brushing habits if they have siblings who will participate with them. And having everyone brush their teeth at the same time can really help keep the family to a schedule.
If nothing else seems to work, try offering a treat for good behavior. It just might do the trick. Many children like getting good behavior stars, especially if they get a prize after they’ve collected a certain number of them. Sometimes, just collecting the stars is enough incentive for your child to keep brushing their teeth regularly.
By using these tips, you should be able to develop the most important rule of habit forming – consistency. It’s important that your child brushes every day, but time and place of brushing can be just as important to forming a habit as how often they brush. Make sure your child is brushing his teeth at the same sink every day, if possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t go on vacation or your child can’t go to a sleepover, but when you are at home it helps reinforce the habit when there is a specific place your child goes to brush her teeth every single day.
But perhaps the most important tip is making sure that your child is brushing at the same time every day. Dentists like Dr. Wells recommend brushing after breakfast in the morning and again at night before bed. If your schedule does not lend itself to brushing at those times, then find two times each day that do work for you. Stick to those times, and your child will pick up the brushing habit in no time!
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