Most parents spend a lot of time worrying about raising their kids right. But there is one very small way in which you can set your kids up for a healthier life, and that is simply to set a good example with your own dental hygiene.
Lead by example when looking after your teeth
We set examples for our kids in everything we do. Just like setting up healthy eating habits, a routine of good daily oral care is vitally important for young children. Brushing your teeth is non-negotiable but how often do kids watch their parents brushing their teeth? Adults are often up before children and go to bed later—this means that kids don’t see adults brushing their teeth regularly.
One way of changing their perception is to clean your teeth at the same time as the kids’ teeth are being cleaned. This might mean doing it a little earlier, at their bedtime rather than yours. By brushing your own teeth in front of them, you’re showing them how it’s done, not just telling them to do it. It’s also demonstrating to them that this is a normal and important part of the daily routine.
Don’t make links between pain and the dentist
Part of setting up good life-long habits for children is helping them to understand that a check-up at the dentist is a regular, normal, pain-free activity. Some patients go through pain at the dentist and this becomes an issue for them when they have children.
In that first meeting with patients, I am usually getting to know you. You’re not going to have any treatment done in that first meeting (of course unless it really is an emergency) and your kids aren’t going to have treatment done on the first visit either. It’s a check-up, rather than a treatment appointment. It is important that children don’t view the dentist as somewhere you go only in pain. It’s a regular part of life.
Baby teeth do matter
It is important to explain to children the importance of going to the dentist. I hear people saying that ‘baby teeth don’t matter because they’re going to fall out’. This is not true. Baby teeth are so important to get the positioning of the adult teeth and jaw structure coming on. Please, parents—don’t think that these teeth don’t matter. They’re there for a reason, and they help to make a child’s adult teeth big and strong too.
Choose a time and make it a habit
Choose a time of day, remembering that it doesn’t have to be after dinner. It’s about removing bacteria from your teeth, not just the food. Brush your teeth whenever it fits into the family routine. Doing it well at least once a day—twice if you can—is more important that the time that it’s done.
Go with what fits into your family and your routine, and your kids’ routine—if that’s when they come home from school, or when they’ve gone to soccer training, or when they’re in the bath. Is that before dinner? That’s fine.