(StatePoint) Copying adult behavior is a part of childhood development. While you may not always love it when your child repeats everything you say, when it comes to healthy dental habits, you can use this to your advantage.
“It’s easier to teach a younger child good oral health habits than to break an older child of poor ones. Encourage your children to take good care of their teeth by showing them how well you take care of your own,” says Dr. Michael Hahn, a licensed dentist and Cigna’s national dental director. “Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the U.S., but it is also largely preventable.”
To help instill good dental health habits in children, Dr. Hahn suggests parents and guardians lead by example in the following ways:
• Go for regular dental checkups: More than one third of adults in the U.S. ages 18 to 64 failed to visit the dentist at least once in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Set a good example so that children don’t skip dental exams when they become adults. Make family appointments for everyone to visit the dentist for checkups and routine cleanings. Be positive when talking about it with children, even if you harbor your own anxieties about dental care. Consider the alternative: when you skip regular dental checkups and cleanings, it becomes more likely that a small problem will grow larger and become more expensive to treat.
• Eat breakfast together: A healthy breakfast can set the tone for a healthy day and may even reduce one’s cravings for sugary snacks later. Sugary and sticky snacks can remain on teeth for hours, providing time for bacteria and acids to begin causing their damage, leading to tooth decay. Beyond breakfast, you can set a good example by packing tooth-friendly healthful lunches with fruits and vegetables for yourself and your children.
• Drink water: Making water your household’s go-to beverage will also help limit your family’s exposure to sugary alternatives. It can also provide an ongoing way to rinse your teeth between meals and after snacks, to limit the length of time food particles remain on the teeth.
• Brush and floss: Follow the American Dental Association recommendations found on their website for brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing at least once daily. Don’t just remind your children to brush their teeth, join them on occasion so that they can see that it can be fun. Incorporating a two-minute timer as part of the ritual can make it more of a game.
You can be a great role model for your children when it comes to dental health. With a positive attitude, you can help your kids form healthy habits that last a lifetime, which in turn will help them keep their teeth for their lifetime.