Getting children to brush their teeth can be a chore. But this is one chore you don’t want to put off. Proper oral hygiene beginning at an early age not only creates a confident smile but also influences health on many levels beyond the mouth. Research shows that a healthy mouth means a healthy body.1 Great oral health is linked to the brain, the heart, blood sugar levels, and more.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who have good oral health.2 The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic childhood issues in the United States.3 That’s why it’s critical to teach kids about the importance of oral health. And remember, good oral health habits start early because even the tiniest teeth can decay.
Oral Hygiene Habits to Create for Kids
The CDC provides these oral health guidelines:2
- Wipe gums twice daily in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed.
- Start brushing twice a day when teeth come in with a soft toothbrush and plain water.
- Visit a child-friendly dentist by the baby’s first birthday to create a strong foundation of proactive prevention.
- Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing skills and if the child is younger than six, watch them brush.
- Only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and be sure the child spits it out rather than swallows it.
For both babies and children, choose healthy drinks and avoid sugary drinks as much as possible because sugar can lead to cavities.
Parents or caregivers can be positive role models by brushing with the child to teach them the right way to brush their teeth including how to hold the toothbrush, getting the right angle, and how long to brush. When the child is three years old and older, the goal is to brush for two minutes, two times a day.4 Children can be enticed into brushing by using toothbrushes with their favorite characters, kid-friendly flavorful toothpaste, and colorful floss. Consider using a timer and making it fun by singing a song or playing a game. There are also fun videos available online to show kids about the importance of brushing and flossing. Positive reinforcement also may help.
Remember good oral hygiene habits also require consistency. Establishing a fun toothbrushing routine twice a day will help create good oral health as the child ages and for their entire lives. Teaching kids about the importance of oral health may be difficult with some children but it’s definitely worth the effort!
- Fiorillo L. Oral Health: The First Step to Well-Being. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(10):676. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6843908/?report=reader
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children’s oral health. 2022;Apr 6. https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/basics/childrens-oral-health/index.html
- Krol D, Whelan K. Good oral health starts early: AAP policy explained. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2022;Dec 19. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/oral-health/Pages/Brushing-Up-on-Oral-Health-Never-Too-Early-to-Start.aspx
- American Dental Association. Tiny smiles: a give kids a smile program. https://www.ada.org/-/media/project/ada-organization/ada/ada-org/files/resources/public-programs/give-kids-a-smile/ada-gkasts-eng_dental_professionals.pdf?rev=990fc0cd385e483f9667881b2c30f894&hash=E0D1C22AF8A96D116C70E8A3130A3FE7