healthy habits

teaching kids healthy habits

Love Your Teeth: Teaching Healthy Habits to Your Children

Before children are able to care for their own teeth, it’s important to begin teaching them healthy oral habits. Starting when kids get that very first teeth, you can begin working with them on dental hygiene and healthy practices so they can keep their mouth and teeth healthy for a lifetime. Here’s a closer look at how you can teach healthy habits to your children at every age so they enjoy a healthy, beautiful smile.

Teaching Healthy Habits to Babies

As soon as your baby is born, it’s important to begin caring for gums. Before they even have teeth, wipe their gums with a damp cloth or gauze. This cleans the gums and starts to get them used to oral care. Once that first tooth pops in, then you can begin brushing with a tiny drop of non-fluoridated toothpaste. After teeth start touching, you can gently begin flossing their teeth.

Your Child’s First Dental Visit

Part of keeping teeth healthy and strong is keeping up with routine dental visits, and taking your child to the dentist early helps facilitate good oral health, both now and in the future. Once your child has that first tooth, make a dental appointment. This not only allows a dentist to ensure teeth are growing in properly, but it can reduce anxiety about future dental appointments.

Modeling Healthy Dental Habits

One of the best ways to teach healthy dental habits to your children is to model them yourself. Kids love doing things that make them feel like a grownup, so let kids watch you go through your dental hygiene regimen. A few great ideas include:

  • Make brushing your teeth together a morning and nighttime routine.
  • Have a contest with your kids. See who can do the best job spitting toothpaste to the drain or who can create the most toothpaste bubbles.
  • Floss your own teeth while kids are watching, and then work with them on flossing their own teeth.
  • Model healthy eating habits. Limit the sugary sweets that both you and your children eat. Remember, keeping junk food out of your home is the first step.
  • Choose teeth-friendly foods yourself, such as milk, yogurt, or nuts.
  • Even when you’re on vacation, make sure you still model good oral habits and keep up with your dental hygiene routine.
  • If possible, make your dental appointments at the same time as your child’s. When you show that dental care is a priority, they’ll learn that their own oral health should be a priority.

Helping Kids Develop Good Oral Habits – Make it Fun!

As you’re working to teach your child health dental habits, try making it fun to get them excited about oral care. Try some of these tips for making dental hygiene fun.

  • Get Kids Involved in Choosing Their Equipment – Allow your kids to pick out their own toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss. It lets them take ownership of their dental health, and they’ll love the chance to pick out exactly what they want, whether it’s bubble gum flavored mouthwash or a toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character on it.
  • Add Some Music – Sometimes it’s tough to make sure kids brush their teeth for the whole two minutes. Add a tune to brushing time that lasts at least two minutes so they know how long they need to keep brushing. Dance while you brush to make it even more fun.
  • Videos and Books – Watch exciting videos about dental hygiene with your kids or find a good children’s book that teaches kids the importance of good oral care habits.
  • Come Up with a Reward System – If your kids need some motivation and encouragement to brush and floss regularly, consider setting up your own reward system. You can make a chart and let them earn stickers each time they brush and floss. Let them pick a fun reward for collecting so many stickers on their chart.

Developing good oral health habits are important for kids, and it’s essential to start teaching healthy habits to your children as early as possible. By modeling an excellent oral health routine and making oral hygiene fun, you’ll help your children build good habits that last a lifetime.


healthy habits

Best Tips for Starting Healthy Habits

Parents, through the parenting choices they make and the things they do, play a huge role in the habits their child develops. Follow some of these parenting tips and advice to help your child develop habits that will improve their oral health.

Try to Always Stay Positive

It can be difficult to stay positive about the dentist, especially if you are undergoing a practically painful or prolonged procedure, but try to remain positive for your children. If your children see you constantly complaining about the dentist or being afraid to go to your regular dental check-up they will pick up on it and start to feel the same way.

Lead by Example

Your children will look to you to see how they should act and what they should do, so make sure you are leading by example. The best way to lead by example is to make sure you are doing exactly what you are asking your child to do. For example, if you want your child to brush their teeth twice a day, make sure you do it too. Don’t just expect your child to do it, but you don’t.

Make Things Fun

Children are more likely to want to do something if they think it is fun. Try to be creative and make the healthy habits you want your child to develop fun.

Some ways you can make brushing and flossing fun include:

  • Create a silly song that you sing when your child brushes their teeth. It doesn’t have to be super complicated, but it should be fun and upbeat. If you happen to be brushing your teeth when your child is around, make sure you sing the song!
  • Use fun downloadable apps for brushing your teeth. There are a number of downloadable apps that can turn brushing your teeth into a game. One app, Brush DJ, plays music that your child can brush their teeth too. The music goes for 2 minutes, which is the recommended minimum amount of time you should be brushing your teeth.
  • Let your children ‘brush’ their favorite doll or stuffed animals teeth at night. Of course, you wouldn’t have them actually use real toothpaste and water, but having them brush their favorite toy’s teeth will make it a fun experience.

Give Rewards for Following Through with Healthy Habits

Everyone likes to receive rewards for doing a good job. Use that to your advantage when trying to get your child to learn healthy habits.

Create a reward system that encourages your child to not only do something once, but to follow through with it multiple times. For example, create a reward system that gives your child a small reward for flossing once a day for a week, a medium sized reward for flossing every day for a month, and a huge reward for flossing every day for six months.

The rewards don’t have to be huge or super expensive. They can be as small as being able to pick out their bedtime snack or getting a sticker to getting a new toy or having dinner at a favorite restaurant.

Let Children Customize Their Experiences

Children like to feel like they are in control and making decisions for themselves. Don’t just tell your child what healthy habits to do and how to do them, let them work with you to customize their experiences and make it interesting for them.

A great example of how you can customize their experience with healthy habits is letting them pick out their own toothbrush. Children’s toothbrushes are available in a wide variety of colors and designs. There are even toothbrushes with TV and movie characters on them. Let your child pick out their toothbrush. Not only will they feel like a ‘big kid’ for picking out their own toothbrush, but it will be something they are sure to want to use on a regular basis.

It isn’t always easy encouraging children to develop healthy habits. Luckily, we are here to help. The staff at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Florida is here to answer any questions you may have or provide you with tips on how to encourage your child to develop healthy habits. Call us with any questions you may have or ask us during your child’s next dental appointment.