Perhaps the most important part of a parent’s job is teaching one’s children effective and healthy habits to last a lifetime. While parents often have a large amount of control of very young children’s diets and dental routines, children will gain more independence as they age. If they have been taught basic oral health skills and why they are important, they will hopefully continue to follow a healthy regimen even without parents looking over their shoulders.

One of the most basic skills any child should know is how to brush teeth. Just as important, children should understand why this process is necessary. The effects of inadequate brushing can take years to show, so kids do not always grasp why they need to clean their teeth every night and morning.

In order to encourage this important habit, you may try making it a game. Have your child “follow” a certain character around his or her mouth to make sure the entire mouth is being cleaned. Your child may enjoy chasing plaque “bugs,” or trailing a character he or she likes from books or movies. Small rewards can also help; receiving stickers to place on a chart is a common motivator.

To help your child understand why this no-fun process is necessary, you may choose one of a wide variety of children’s videos and books illustrating this concept. You may also want to show your child pictures of tooth decay that are not too graphic to illustrate what can happen. A good dentist will also be able to explain the importance of this habit, and demonstrate how to do it correctly.

Of course, brushing is not the only aspect of dental health. Following a good diet can also contribute to strong teeth in addition to overall physical health. In general, children who have been taught to eat healthily from a young age will find it much easier to do so as adults.

 For example, try to use healthy foods as treats and rewards, rather than overly sugary snacks. This can help teach kids to enjoy fruits and vegetables, rather than seeing them as something dreary that their parents force them to eat. Keeping glucose and caffeine to a minimum can greatly reduce a child’s risk of forming cavities, and may even contribute to improved behavior.

Teaching a child good habits is not easy. Many parents have to try a variety of tips and techniques before they find something that works well. The important thing is to not become too discouraged and to keep focusing on children’s health.

For more children’s oral health advice, contact Chicago family dentist Dr. Bagai.

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