Parenting Tips: How to Get Your Kids to Take Care of Their Teeth

Getting kids to take care of their teeth is like pulling teeth. (Ok, that pun was very much intended and it works beautifully here!!!) It is something that I and many other parents struggle with. 

On top of that, some kids are born with weaker teeth and a predisposition to get cavities, and it makes it even harder, because you are fighting against their body. 

But it is possible to help your kids have strong healthy teeth. Here's some tips that were sent to me that I will try to implement, and hopefully you will be able to benefit from them too.

Kids like to eat a lot of candy and don’t like brushing their teeth. Perfect combination!

Because they’re tired from work and their children tend to be uncooperative when told to go brush their teeth, many parents take consolation in the fact that they have baby teeth which are going to fall out anyway so maybe they can skip the arguments and negotiating.

Unfortunately, that’s not a very good reason to not insist that your kids learn how to properly take care of their teeth.

First of all, the habits they pick up when they’re little will influence the way they behave later in life.
Second of all, tooth decay is a highly widespread health issue among children and losing their baby teeth as a consequence of cavities will result in poor alignment when their permanent teeth start to grow.

Moreover, they can still develop gum disease if they don’t maintain adequate oral hygiene.

What You Need to Know About Baby Teeth (Deciduous Teeth)

Children start to develop their baby teeth (also called primary teeth) between the ages of 6 and 10 months. By the time they’re 3 years old, they will have grown 20 baby teeth, while adults have 32. One of the reasons kids have such charming smiles is their pearly white teeth. But their smiles aren’t so bright because their teeth are extra healthy.

Primary and permanent teeth are very similar in structure but there are a few key differences. The pulp of the tooth, the part that contains nerves and blood vessels, is covered by a layer of dentin, a calcified, yellowish tissue, harder than bones. The dentin is, in turn covered by a layer of enamel, harder than dentin, varying in color from light yellow to grayish-white.

The enamel found in baby teeth is actually thinner than the one adults have, but it’s more opaque and whiter, so it doesn’t allow the layer of yellow dentin to show through.

At around 6 years old, kids start to lose their baby teeth and grow their permanent ones and then you can clearly see the difference in color between the two types.

Baby teeth have an important role in speech developments as they help control the air flow through the mouth and thus, making the right sounds for correct pronunciation.

As we’ve mention in the introduction, baby teeth also guide the alignment for the permanent teeth. When they lose a tooth too quickly, the teeth in that are will shift to fill the gap so by the time the permanent tooth is ready to come up, there won’t be sufficient space and it will grow crooked. [Note from Penny: There is a solution to this- spacers put in around a tooth that also save a space for the adult tooth to come in and prevent the teeth from shifting. But this requires an extra expense of orthodonture, and the spacer can lead to cavities on the tooth to which it is attached. ]

Moreover, an untreated cavity or plaque can infect the gums and thus, the development of their permanent teeth. [Note from Penny: If cavities in the baby teeth get bad enough, they can cause an infection and it can even extend down to the permanent teeth, according to what I understood from my kids' dentist.]

What Does Good Oral Hygiene Mean?

We’ve established that when it comes to good oral hygiene habits, teaching the kids early is essential, but what does that mean?

Before they even have teeth, you need to wipe their gums with a soft washcloth after every feeding, to remove any bacterial build up. Once they start to grow, brush them twice a day with no more that a smear of toothpaste and a soft toothbrush appropriate for the size of their mouth. They make them for every age.

As they grow and develop the dexterity to brush their own teeth, you need to make sure they do it twice a day. Also, as their permanent teeth start to grow, the gaps between teeth will fill so they have to learn how to use dental floss.

Brushing your teeth should take no less than 2 minutes so don’t let them finish in maximum 30 seconds as they’re prone to do.

If they wear braces, by brushing their teeth regularly and thoroughly, they can avoid having white sports on their teeth after the braces are removed.

Taking them to the dentist every six months is also highly beneficial. They can have their plaque removed, get fluoride treatments which they need because of their thin layer of enamel and the dentist can detect cavities early on, before they have a chance to spread to the surrounding teeth and gums.

You should not allow them to have any more snacks, especially sugary ones, after they have brushed their teeth. If they insist tell them that if they can have some only if they agree to brush their teeth again afterwards.

How to Convince Them

Now that you know what proper oral hygiene means and why it’s important for kids, we can move on to how to get them to do it without throwing a fit and screaming. Few children jump for joy when you tell them to brush their teeth because they don’t really understand why it’s such a big deal and view it mostly as a chore.

Tell Them Why It’s Important

Of course, it has to be in terms they can understand. You can tell them that you do it as well, twice a day and so do most adults. That after a meal, the yummy desert gets stuck on your teeth and makes them get sick. If you don’t clean them you get bad breath and an icky taste in your mouth all the time. Sometimes they even start to hurt, quite a lot actually.

As they grow older you can get more technical.

Let Them Have a Say in It

Get several toothbrushes and let them pick the one they like best. Likewise for toothpaste, it might take a bit until they find one with a taste they like. Kids like to have control over what they do and letting them have a say in their oral hygiene habits will make them more willing to engage and cooperate. [Note from Penny: I personally found that my kids brush their teeth much more happily if they have electric toothbrushes, because that makes brushing their teeth fun.]

Do It Together

Turn brushing your teeth into quality time. You’ll get the chance to see if they’re doing it properly and they’ll associate it with something grown-ups do.

Most kids try to copy their parents and if they see you do it, they won’t consider it a punishment anymore. You can even add a little bit of fun with some music and games.

What do you do to help your kids take care of their teeth? Any tried and true tricks? Did you find these tips actually worked with your kids?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal

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