How Do I Teach My Children About Kids Dental Hygiene?

In order to help children form healthy habits, it’s important to educate them from a young age. When it comes to teaching kids dental hygiene techniques, using age-appropriate language is key. Not only do simplified explanations help kids understand, but they also make it easier on you when teaching them. For example, using a sentence such as “cavities are holes that develop in the tooth enamel due to bacteria in the mouth,” can be simplified to “germs and too much sugar cause holes in your teeth that will give you a toothache.” In this way, you eliminate the need for more sophisticated words like “cavities” and “bacteria,” which allows you to bypass explaining what those words mean. Nevertheless, any education about healthy habits is good education, as it will encourage positive behaviors in kids.

How to Explain Basic Dental Habits

Pediatric dentists often educate their patients using the “tell-show-do” method, which helps kids visualize what to do to keep their mouths healthy. So, what is the “tell-show-do” method? This is a simple teaching technique that involves just a few quick steps. First you tell the child what to do and why they need to do it, then you show them where to do it (using a prop, usually a set of fake toy teeth will do), and finally, you do it in front of them. If that method isn’t working for you, or you just need a little bit more guidance, try using the following tips:

  1. Make sure you are in a quiet place, with little distractions.
  2. Ask questions to make sure the child understands what is being taught.
  3. Test them at the end, by asking them to show you what they’ve learned.
  4. Use the real dental tools (such as a toothbrush, floss and/or mouthwash) and have the child practice how to properly use them in front of you.

How to Explain Why Kids Dental Hygiene is Important

Teaching kids how to brush and floss their teeth daily is important, but it’s equally important to educate them about why it’s important. Try some of these suggestions when explaining why dental hygiene is crucial:

  1. Use age-appropriate terms to explain that when you don’t brush your teeth twice daily, a sticky film called plaque sits on the teeth, and the plaque eats away at your teeth!
  2. If the child you’re educating is very young, make explanations even simpler and more fun. You can explain that sugar creates “sugar bugs” (cavities) in the mouth, if too much is eaten without being brushed away.
  3. Explain that cavities (or sugar bugs) cause pain and make it hard to eat and speak. If the cavities don’t get treated, they will cause the tooth to feel worse.
  4. Use positive explanations too, explaining that when you brush and floss daily, your teeth stay sparkling white and your breath will stay nice and fresh too.

Education is one of the most important parts of being a pediatric dentist, and teaching kids dental hygiene is no small feat! If you need more assistance with encouraging kids to form healthy oral hygiene habits, make sure to ask your child’s pediatric dentist for tips at their next appointment. Advanced Children’s Dentistry provides an educational yet fun atmosphere where Dr. Sybil Padavathil offers full-service dentistry for kids! Schedule your child’s dental appointment at 516-758-KIDS.

Infographic describing how to teach kids dental hygiene

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