Oral & Vision Health Blog

Creative Strategies to Improve Oral Health for Kids

Stumped for ways to help your child take better care of their mouth?  Here are a few strategies to consider guaranteed to improve oral health:

Keep an Open Bathroom Door

Well, not for that, but keep the door open when you brush your teeth and let them watch how you take care of your mouth.  You can announce after a meal, “I’m going to brush my teeth now because I don’t want to get cavities and have bad breath” or “I’ve got a giant piece of steak stuck in my teeth…I wonder if I can floss it out?  Who wants to see?”  Getting food out of your teeth is kind of a yucky thing, but if you want your kids to have clean teeth, be honest with them.  Food stuck in teeth is icky.  Let’s get it out!  If you don’t floss your teeth, your kids are not going to floss theirs. 

Buy a Book

If you have a little reader, buy a body hygiene book, such as the The Care and Keeping of You:  the Body Book for Younger Girls or The Body Book for Boys.  I originally bought these books for my son and daughter to help them understand their own biology, but my daughter's first comments were that it taught her how to brush her teeth.  No matter that I’ve been teaching her to do it since birth or that the dentist reminds her every six months.  She had to read it in a book for it to hold relevance.

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The Power of Gross

Use this idea with caution, because dental anxieties often start in childhood with negative experiences, so only do this if you think your child can handle it without fear.  My son loves all things gross, so naturally, he loved this.

Here’s what I did:  I once made the background on my computer a big photo of rotten teeth.  Inevitably, my son strolled by one day and said, “Ewwww, what’s that?”  I, of course, used that as an opening for a discussion about what happens to some people that don’t keep their teeth clean.  This idea is not meant to instill fear in a child, but more to appeal to the science-minded, inquisitive, matter-of-fact child.  Nobody knows better than you if this would be too much to handle for your child, so use your intuition and good sense before pursuing this idea. 

Don’t Leave it to Chance

Follow up on what your kids tell you.  My son would tell me he brushed his teeth, but sometimes the hesitation in his voice gave him away.  So, I’d check his breath.  Sometimes I sneak upstairs to "just happen by" and see how things are going.  I’m not trying to create a police state with regards to oral health, but I do want him to know, gently, that I’m paying attention.

Provide Rewards

Provide rewards for a getting a dental check-up.  Notice I didn’t say for a “good” check-up.  A little reward for simply going to the dentist is in order, such as playing a game with your kids, going to the park or making a craft together.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot or be a big deal, but make sure you point out that it’s because you all went to the dentist.  This will help your child establish good feelings about the dentist for life.

Most of all, making kid's oral health fun is the best strategy.  Keep it light, breezy and no-nonsense and your kids will automatically pick up on your fantastic attitude!


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