Teaching Children About Oral Health

A family brushing their teeth together in a bathroom

How do you start teaching your child about their oral health? Most people only think about brushing and flossing when they talk to children about their oral health. However, children are inquisitive and will be more willing to keep their teeth healthy if they understand the importance of good oral health beyond brushing and flossing. Keeping teeth clean is essential for children to avoid cavities. Toddlers will need to be taught the basics, and as a child grows, they can be taught more and more about keeping a healthy mouth. Help your child to learn what plaque and cavities are, how sugar causes tooth decay, how to brush and floss their teeth properly, and more!


Brushing and Flossing Teeth

If you’re going to do one good thing for your oral health, we hope it’s brushing your teeth! This is the most important oral hygiene habit you can have, and that goes for your children as well. The American Dental Association recommends brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. You can brush after every meal to reduce your risk for cavities even more. Teaching children to brush and floss will take time, but once they have the skills down, they can have great oral health for life. You will have to brush your child’s teeth for the first few years. As soon as that first baby tooth pops through the gums, that tooth needs to be brushed several times a day. You will also have to wipe their gums.


As a child ages, they will get more teeth. Make sure you are brushing those teeth with a toddler toothbrush and helping them to learn the basics. Around age 3 or 4, they may be able to brush by themselves with supervision. You won’t have to floss their teeth until they move close enough together that the toothbrush bristles don’t move between them well. Flossers that you hold are generally the easiest for children to use until they master winding floss around their fingers and flossing like an adult. Make sure that they know to brush at least morning and night and to floss each day. To make it easy on you, brush and floss at the same time with your child, so they have an example every single day of how to do both of these correctly. If children are brushing on their own, set a timer or play a song and have them brush for the entire time (about 2 minutes). Having a reward chart will help them have the desire to take care of their oral health.


Young boy and girl brushing their teeth

Dental Lingo for Kids

Visiting the dentist can be intimidating for young children. It’s best for parents to prepare them for their first time at the dentist so that children are not afraid and feel comfortable. We do all that we can to make children feel comfortable in our office, but a lot of how they feel about the dentist will also come from you. You can prepare them for their visit by explaining what the dentist will be like. A nice dentist will look inside their mouth and check that their teeth look sparkly and clean and that their mouth is healthy. Choosing a dental office that has worked with kids before is your best option for your child to have a good experience.


Words are very important when it comes to a child’s first visit. We never want to talk about shots and drills, as these words can make a child anxious. It’s better to say words such as “Mr. Whistle” for a drill or “Sleepy Juice” for novocain. X-rays turn into “pictures of your teeth” and “exam” turns into “we’re going to count your teeth.” It’s important to teach about cavities, but for children, we can call them sugar bugs or sugar monsters that hurt their teeth if they don’t brush and floss. This is because when they eat, some food gets stuck to their teeth, which we call plaque. That plaque will turn into those sugar monsters if they’re teeth aren’t brushed every day. There are always better words to use for children that teaches them not to fear the dentist and helps them know the importance of taking care of their teeth.


Why Oral Health Is Important

Many people assume that people know how to take care of their teeth. However, countless studies show that adults also need to learn more about taking care of their oral health. Gum disease and tooth decay run rampant among adults and children alike. In fact, over 64.7 million American adults alone have gum disease. That’s not even counting children. Millions more adults have tooth decay. This is because adults simply aren’t seeing the dentist and aren’t brushing or flossing their teeth.


Studies show that only about 65% of people visit the dentist each year. That statistic stays consistent throughout the past 10 years. When studies have been conducted on how much adults brush and floss their teeth, the statistics are dismal. Some don’t floss at all or brush during the day. Other adults don’t remember the last time they did either one of those simple oral health habits.


Mother helping her young daughter to brush her teeth

Prevent Oral Health Problems

You save much more time and money by preventing oral health problems before they start. All it takes is 2 minutes in the morning and 2 minutes at night to brush your teeth. It takes just a few minutes more to floss, use fluoride or use mouthwash. All of these simple habits can make your oral health great and will help you avoid chronic problems with your mouth. If you haven’t already, take a step in the right direction and make your appointment for a dental exam and cleaning. Simply call Niles Family Dentistry at (303) 652-0400 and see how your oral health is doing!

Ashley Niles

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