Consistency, Routine, and Flexibility
by Elena from Oregon
I was fortunate to grow up in a house where oral health was emphasized; my mom was a Head Start teacher and we had at least one of those giant teeth sets with an equally giant toothbrush for modeling just how to gently scrub away those “sugar bugs.” As I aged, and since becoming a mom, my teeth have certainly seen better days. Pregnancy puts our teeth and overall health at higher risk for disease, and countless reheated mugs of coffee take their toll! And beyond appearance, I know poor dental hygiene and tooth decay contribute to serious health conditions like cardiovascular disease.
So, when my almost 3-year-old cut her first tooth shortly after her 1-year dental check-up, it was my chance to recommit to my own oral health. At her last appointment, the dentist was impressed by her willingness to open wide and show off regularly brushed and flossed pearly whites. Here, from a mom in the thick of it, are my top tips to a happy and healthy smile and maybe even a lifetime of oral health!
Start early! Your little one is never too young to learn from what they see. Let your baby look in your mouth, count your teeth, watch you floss, and breathe in your fresh, minty breath.
Stay up on dental visits! Start with their 1-year visit and attend all scheduled follow-ups. Make seeing the dentist a regular part of taking care of your and your kids’ health. We search YouTube for Elmo videos on visiting the dentist and share positive stories about the dentist for a week ahead of any appointments to ease any anxieties. Use fluoride drops if prescribed to build enamel and strengthen baby and permanent teeth.
Make it a family affair! Set a great example by brushing/flossing with your child to show that oral hygiene is important.
Take turns! Let kiddos brush mommy or daddy's teeth while you give their teeth a gentle scrubbing. Affirm and continue to educate by saying "that feels so good on my gums!" Or "I like how you're reaching all the way back to my molars!"
Have a regular routine! For us, it’s brushing after breakfast, then flossing and brushing after dinner.
Set a 2-minute timer! Even better, cue up a favorite song to play for your dental hygiene routine. Or make one up as you go! We like to change the words around to popular kids’ songs to fit the scenario. Your kids will have fun and feel less like this is one more chore.
Still struggling? Maybe try something totally different today! Order a big mouth for them to practice brushing and ask older kids to help model healthy behavior for younger ones by following brushing routines.
Bottom line, there is no one right way to integrate healthy habits but some key things can make it easier; consistency, routine, and flexibility are a good framework to work from. Good luck and happy smiling!!!
This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Elena.
I am a recovering Public Defender and mom of one, having relocated from Brooklyn back to my home state of Oregon. It is my goal to be intentional as a Mom and as a member of Humanity, and I am supported in this adventure of parenthood by my amazing partner and family. While Public Defense is truly, for me, God's Work, Motherhood is the biggest joy and challenge of my life!
Want more information on brushing your child's teeth? wichealth.org has a free online lesson called Two Minutes Twice A Day For A Healthy Smile. Find it on wichealth.org in the Children 1-5 category!