It is crucial for your children’s health that they develop good oral hygiene habits from a young age. To that end, the American Pediatric Association recommends that children have their first dental exams starting between 1 and 2 years of age. This is particularly important since the primary teeth start erupting as early as six months. These baby teeth will then go on to set the stage for the proper alignment and development of your child’s permanent teeth.
How to Motivate Your Young Child
Initially you will be taking care of your child’s teeth, but starting around age 2, your child can start helping in his or her own oral care. At about the age of 6, when the requisite motor skills have developed, your child will be able to take over brushing and flossing his or her own teeth. To keep your child motivated, try some of these tips:
- Get your child an electric or manual toothbrush with a favorite character on it
- Model good brushing and flossing behavior for your child and let him or her mimic you
- Use a footstool so your child can watch himself in the mirror
- Choose a flavored toothpaste with a design on the tube that appeals to your child
- Try singing to your child or play a song while your child is brushing so they do it for the full recommended two minutes
- Let your child practice brushing the teeth of stuffed toys for practice
- Keep the sessions short, particularly for really young children
- Assist with brushing up to age 6 or 7 to ensure removal of plaque and other harmful bacteria
Make Trips to the Dentist Fun
By starting dental visits at a young age, your child will be more likely to think of it as a fun activity rather than something to be feared. Try some of these tips to allay your child’s fears:
- Stay calm, yourself. You don’t want your child to sense you are nervous.
- Tie the trip into some other fun thing for your child to do afterward.
- Take one of your child’s favorite books along to read in the waiting room.
- Take along a coloring book and crayons or one of your child’s favorite toys.
- Find a pediatric dentist that specializes in working with young children and can make them feel comfortable during the visit.
By making oral routines fun for your child and easing anxieties about visits to the dentist, you can make oral health something that your child looks forward to with positive anticipation.