If you have a young child, you may know how challenging it can be to get them to brush their teeth and floss. For children, staying clean is like a punishment. Who wants to brush their teeth when that time could be more productively spent playing with a new toy? As you may also know, maintaining a healthy mouth is very important, and establishing good oral health habits with children early on can eliminate the worry of issues down the line. February is Children's Dental Health Month - there's no better time to promote oral cleanliness!
Although young children will lose their baby teeth, it's best to get them into the habit of brushing and flossing. Children can revert to bad habits quickly and suffer from bad breath or even tooth decay. It may not seem like much, but having bad breath symptoms can be embarrassing and lead to other diseases.
Get the facts
According to statistics recently reported on by the Ad Council, only 44 percent of parents in the United States said that their child brushed their teeth twice a day or more. The organization also noted that tooth decay is the No. 1 issue for American children's health, and more than 16 million kids are suffering from untreated tooth decay. Often times, parents are unaware of the other illnesses that can come along with bad oral hygiene later in life such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity and more obviously, gum disease.
In August 2012, the Ad Council partnered with Sesame Street, DreamWorks Animation, Cartoon Network, MyKazoo!, Grey Group and Wing in an effort to promote the importance of children's oral health.
"Oral health is a serious subject. When it concerns mothers and their children, the best creative approach is light and fun," Renata Florio, Chief Creative Officer of Wing, said. "Each commercial was intended to highlight the necessary balance of children's time: If your child spends hours on playtime, why shouldn't they spend 2 minutes taking care of their teeth?"
If you're not setting a good example for your child to brush their teeth and floss regularly, how are they supposed to know? Children can be difficult when it comes to oral health, so making it into a fun family activity may help. According to the Ad Council, 60 percent of parents with children 12 or younger don't regularly help their children brush their teeth. Roughly 31 percent reported arguing with their children at least once a week to brush.
Make it a game
Children love games, so why not make brushing and flossing a fun activity? Parents may want to get an hourglass or sand timer to get children to understand how long they should be brushing – once the timer runs out, the mouth should be clean! Parents may also want to create a chart to hang in the bathroom, which can be helpful if there are multiple children in the household. Mark off each day and night with a sticker, and if all the spots are filled by the end of the mouth, reward children with a movie night or dinner of their choice.
Prepare for the future
Brushing habits can start as early as age two, and can encourage good oral hygiene for the rest of their lives. Along with these practices, parents should promote healthy eating, which helps keep the teeth and gums strong and clean. Parents should decrease the intake of sugary drinks and treats and increase the amount of water and dairy. Preventing gum disease and cavities at an early age can help your child stave off health problems throughout the entire body.