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Dental health can affect so many aspects of life, but it is often put aside as inconsequential, or simply considered to be less important than it actually is. Start your kids off with a healthy respect for their teeth with these simple tips.

Talk to your child

Communication is important in everything with a child. It is important for them to understand why they need to brush their teeth. You might try showing them pictures of what might happen if they do not brush regularly. Some children may be too sensitive for this, but others might remember those pictures for the rest of their lives.

You do not want to scare them- just make them aware. If showing a few pictures can ensure that they keep their teeth clean and healthy, it is well worth the effort. For some children, pictures are not necessary. Simply referring to anything unhealthy in their mouth as “sugar bugs” will make them aware of nasty feelings.

Show them what to do

Though talking to them is important, showing them what to do is even more important. Be a good role model by brushing twice a day in front of them. Lead by example instead of just by words. Take it a step farther by actually brushing with them. Children love to mimic their parents, so if you brush your teeth alongside them, they will learn how to brush well.

If they are very young, particularly under three, show them the right amount of toothpaste to apply. Smile as you do it or make silly faces. If you can make it an enjoyable time, there will be no negative feelings attached to the act of brushing their teeth. Instead, they will want to recreate the good feelings that they remember.

Take them to the dentist

Dentist appointments are very important to the health of your teeth and gums. Be sure that you visit your dentist twice a year and take your child with you to your regular visits. This way they will see that there is nothing to fear.

Most dentists will not actually begin to clean a child’s teeth until age three or four, sometimes later if the child does not cooperate. Still, they need to go twice a year to get used to the idea. If they have siblings, try to have all of their cleanings on the same day. This will reinforce that there is no reason to fear. Just be sure to tell your older siblings that they need to keep it positive for their younger sibling’s sake.

Use a timer app

A few years ago, there was an app called the Oral B Magic Timer. Children could choose their theme, which would play for the two minutes of brushing, and they would receive a sticker in their digital book at the end. This app is not as popular anymore, but you can still find a fun timer app. Set it to two minutes and let it play while your child is brushing. This is yet another way to make brushing fun.

You might also consider simply setting a two-minute timer on your phone and dancing around with your child until it goes off. Be sure, though, that they know to stop and spit the toothpaste out periodically. Otherwise, they might swallow toothpaste or chew their toothbrush.

The bottom line is to provide a fun and somewhat distracting activity. Though two minutes might not seem long to adults, it can be an interminable time to children. Without fun and distraction, they may rush through the brushing, leaving you with more trips to the dentist than either of you want.

Use rewards

For some kids, you might need more than a fun app. Fortunately, charts and stickers still work very well for little ones. Make or purchase a chart- preferably a laminated one- and let your child pick some stickers. For every time they brush their teeth, let them add a sticker beside their name.
At the end of the week, give them a treat. Try to find something besides candy or sweets, though, as such items can do damage to teeth. If you want to use some type of sugary substance as a reward, do it as a monthly prize instead of a weekly one, or have them brush again after they eat their treat.

Make healthy foods readily available

There is nothing wrong with sweets, candy, and desserts in moderation, but making that available at all times can cause serious dental health issues. Make them head for healthy foods instead by keeping them readily available. There are a few different ways that you can do this.

Use the principle of “out of sight, out of mind” against the little ones. Set a bowl of fruit out on your table or counter. You should also move unhealthy snacks to the back of the fridge and cabinets. When unhealthy items are not directly in front of their faces, they do not always think about them.

Remember, too, that humans tend to go down the path of least resistance. Make little snack bags of their favorite fruits and veggies, and leave them sitting in the front of your refrigerator. By keeping healthy snacks conveniently in your child’s path, he or she will almost always reach for those first.

Your child’s dental health habits early in life can greatly affect their future dental health. Starting healthy habits at a young age can influence healthy dental habits throughout adulthood. Make good dental hygiene a priority in your life and your home. If the importance and good habits are ingrained in them as young children, they will carry them over into their own lives.