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The Earlier, the Better: How to Get Your Kids Started With Dental Care

May 02, 2022

The Earlier, the Better: How to Get Your Kids Started With Dental Care

Habits are developed not only through repeatedly doing the same thing. For the task to turn into a habit and stick, it needs to be something either so automatic that muscle memory takes over, or that your brain thinks it’s getting a “reward” in the end. It’s often not really a reward in the purest sense, but more of an expected result. Think of it as that feeling of accomplishment after making up a neat bed in the morning, or the minty freshness you get after brushing your teeth. 

Kids and adults alike are creatures of habit, and when kids live in a home that is consistent with their routines for the most part, it helps them feel safe, secure, and protected. The habits that you will help instill in them now will, if done well, stick with them as they grow into adults themselves. 

If you want your child to grow up having good dental health and hygiene, this relies on two things: Firstly, it depends on your encouragement, guidance, and help through those growing-up years when you literally must brush their teeth for them. Second, you must be a role model of great oral health—kids follow what you do, not what you say, after all! 

In this article, we’ll talk about: 

A Child-Parent Partnership: The Good Habits are Formed

Gentle parenting is all about putting yourself in your child’s shoes, empathizing with them, and figuring out if they have a need that must be met. It’s not permissive, which is letting your child do whatever they want, neither is it authoritarian, meaning your little one only does what you say because they’re scared of being punished or because they want a reward. Gentle parenting is authoritative parenting—you are the authority figure, and you lead your child to making the right decisions through tapping into what they’re feeling, what they’re going through, and then helping them come up with choices that they can independently make themselves. 

So what does gentle parenting have to do with instilling good oral health habits in your child? Plenty! Gentle parenting can be of great help in creating good, long-lasting habits in children. Rather than commanding your child to do something “because you said so”, gentle parenting attunes to what is happening at the moment, connects with your kid’s feelings, and then comes up with a solution that they might want. Or better yet, and also depending on their age and maturity level, you work together with your child to come up with a solution or task, or in this case, a habit that they can start—just like true partners.

A mother teaching her son positive habits with brushing his teeth.

Gentle parenting beats permissive and authoritarian parenting any day. Make your little one comfortable with learning!

Good Habits Today, Healthy Teeth Tomorrow: 8 Oral Health Habits Your Kids Can Start Now

1. Set a schedule.

Kids should brush their teeth twice a day, and floss at least once a day. Setting a schedule will help your child expect that certain times are blocked out for “brush and floss” time. It will make them feel calmer when approaching the task, too. If that’s the only task that they need to do during those few minutes, it would be easier to lead them to the bathroom to do it, rather than figuring out how to pry them away from their screens or playtime for the routine—who would want to go into that lion’s den? 

2. Let them use what they want to use. 

When kids choose what they want to use—their cup, toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss—they’re most likely to see those items as my stuff. Hence, they would feel a sense of possession for them and would more likely want to use them. For as long as the items they use are appropriate for their age, such as the size of their toothbrush and the kind of floss they use, then be all for it! 

3. Check your child’s toothpaste if it has enough fluoride content. 

Normally, your tap water should actually have enough fluoride, but it helps to check. Fluoride helps make the teeth’s enamel stronger, and this will make it tougher for acid to penetrate or eat into the teeth. The amount of toothpaste your child uses depends on their age, and as they grow older, so do their fluoride needs. Just remember that too much of anything is bad, including too much fluoride. If you’re unsure if your toothpaste has enough or too much fluoride, double check with your doctor. 

4. Follow the 2-minute rule, the fun way! 

How do you know if your teeth are already clean? Is it the effort you put in it, the way it looks or feels clean, or do you just go about it automatically? When you brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, this makes sure that you’ve thoroughly gone through your entire mouth at least once. Start implementing this rule with your child so that they can get used to how long it takes to properly brush their teeth. If they start getting antsy, playing a 2-minute song for them to listen to while they brush will help keep them busy. Do the same habit when flossing as well. Have them choose the songs to listen to! Who’s up for another round of We Don’t Talk About Bruno

5. Floss as early as possible. 

Kids are lucky nowadays that they get to floss as early in life as they can, and they have great options! Dental floss picks like Piico Kids , for example, make the task easier for them. Piico Kids Floss Picks are made with children’s usage especially in mind, so there are colorful characters to choose from, and they’re easy-to-use. The thread-on picks take the guesswork out of how much floss to use and do away with the fear that it might get stuck between your child’s teeth or break while they’re using them. 

The usual age that kids can start flossing is around 6 years old, which is also the age when all the baby teeth are out and might start loosening to give way for permanent teeth to take their places. It’s also the time when it can get a little bit crowded in the mouth—all those pearly whites inside a little mouth will make it easier for food stuff to get stuck in between tightly-fit teeth. So the earlier they get into the habit of flossing once a day, the easier it will be for them to do it with comfort and ease when they’re adults. It won’t be a chore for them anymore! 

6. Be on the lookout for a worn-out toothbrush. 

You know how a toothbrush that’s seen better days looks like—it’s all frayed along the edges from wear and tear. There’s no use—literally—for a frayed toothbrush since those bristles will not be effective in cleaning your teeth. Task your child to check their toothbrush from time to time, too. You have to change it every three to four months, but you can chuck it as soon as you see it looking frayed. 

A little Asian boy bravely getting his teeth cleaned at the dentist.

Empathize with and reassure your little one if they have a fear of the dentist! Encourage them to be brave.

7. See the dentist every six months. 

Two out of 365 days in a year—these are the only times that your child needs to see their dentist for their teeth cleaning. So why is there so much dread in your child? There could be a lot of reasons, from uncomfortable past visits to a memory of you getting mad at them for rotten teeth or plaque found in their teeth. There’s also the possibility that you might be projecting your own feelings towards dentists onto them. Children feed off of their parents’ energy, so when you feel anxious over a visit, it tends to spill onto them, too. 

Enter gentle parenting. If your child is feeling anxious about visiting their dentist, find the root cause behind their anxiety. Is there an unmet need? Maybe they’re scared you’ll get mad at them again, or they feel unprepared? Whatever it may be, solve it through your protective presence and through choices that will make them feel comfortable being in the dentist’s chair, like holding your hand or assuring them in a more soothing tone.  

Your dentist will probably suggest it, but ask them if your child will need sealants in their back teeth where most of the chewing action happens. These sealants will help prevent food from getting stuck there and causing tooth decay. 

8. Know what to do with sugary food and drinks. 

Kids love their sugar, and it’s an uphill climb to get them to stop from consuming them. The biggest congratulations to you if you got your kids to not be so sugary! As for the rest, here’s what you can do: After consuming candy, sugary fruit juice, or anything sugary, have your child do a couple of mouth rinses. If time permits, have them brush their teeth ASAP. Sugar breaks down enamel and gets in between teeth—both situations can cause cavities. Did you know that according to the CDC, about 20% of kids between the ages of 5 to 11 have at least one untreated, decayed tooth? That’s 1 out of 5 kids! Beat those odds by saying no to too much sugar.

If you hear your child grumbling over these tasks or maybe have a full-blown tantrum, the key is to keep your cool and remember who the grown-up is. More importantly, remember the reason behind instilling all these habits. It may take a ton of effort than just letting them do whatever they want, but taking that road will lead to bad oral health that they will regret in the future. Bossing them around until they do it will also lead them to associate these habits with fear of being punished if they don’t. Find the middle ground and instill these habits through consistency, empathy, and gentle discipline—one brush at a time. 

To learn more about kid friendly oral hygiene products, check out what Piico has in store for your little ones below and choose the dental floss pack that your kids will love: