As parents, we pay a lot of attention to the well-being of the child – give them timely nutritious food, make sure they wash their hands after they’ve been out, pay attention to appropriate clothing. However, the one thing that seems to be receiving less attention than it deserves is oral hygiene.
As a young mom myself, I often found myself fighting the temptation to skip the brushing and cleaning. First, I was often exhausted and second, the more important reason was that brushing time was often the time my kids got active all over again and I dreaded the crying fits later from exhaustion! And then, there were the feeding sessions in the middle of the night to calm a vigorous crying bout. Amidst all this, I have always found it a challenge to cultivate to sustain healthy dental hygiene habits with my kids.
Here are a few ways to instil good oral hygiene habits in children:
1. Include a healthy diet
Research by Duke University suggests that junk foods can be a major cause for poor dental health in children. According to the study, children whose parents followed healthy habits had no difficulty with making good choices themselves. Foods like candy, soda, “fermentable carbohydrates,” and packaged food can produce acid and make it linger in the child’s mouth, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Modelling good dietary choices is the best way to ensure good oral hygiene for the child.
2. Let them sleep if off
Stress in children leads to dental conditions like “bruxism”, otherwise called teeth grinding. Research confirms that children who grind their teeth are more likely to be withdrawn in school. The cause of stress could be school, peers, social situations. The best way to ease these symptoms is to inculcate a consistent bedtime routine and help them sleep it off. A storytelling ritual, a reassuring conversation or a comforting massage before bedtime are known to aid good quality sleep for children.
3. Keep them hydrated
Dehydration in children can be the beginning of bad oral hygiene. Germ buildup and stomach disorders lead up to mouth ulcers which prevent them from brushing well. Dehydration is also seen as a major cause for teeth-grinding. Setting up reminders to give children water or remind them to drink it can be very effective.
4. Check habit formation
A study finds that habits form before the age of 9 in children. Children can easily develop habits like sticking the tongue out or breathing through the mouth that can have a direct effect on the jaw shape along with other health issues. When you see the child sticking her tongue out or keeping her mouth open during the daytime, gently distract her from forming a strong habit of it. Remind her not to do it or use effective distraction strategies to help overcome obsessive habits.
5. Make dental visits a regular feature
Make dentist visits a regular feature. My dentist could see that my daughter needed bite-correction and he suggested that we get her started while her jaw was still shaping up – resulting in a relatively non-invasive, pain-free and long-lasting treatment for her. Refrain from using dental visits as a threat to correct bad behaviour, or showing disdain for your own dental visits.
6. Brush it off
Make the brushing routine a fun activity. As I said earlier, I ran the risk of getting them active all over again, putting off bedtime. Character toothbrushes, storytelling during brushing, or brushing together as a family can make it fun for them. When they were relaxed and saw it as a fun activity, they were likely to fall asleep much faster after the night-time brushing.
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