We all know that good dental hygiene is important, but how do we teach our kids about good oral health when they won't even brush their teeth? Getting our children to brush and floss is important, and we know that too much sugar can lead to cavities, but the challenge is getting them to think about those things.
It's not as hard as you might think – we started by visiting the Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation’s exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus! We took our 8, 7, 5, and 3-year-old to The Teaching Kitchen and the Village of Healthy Smiles. It was so much fun that the kids are still talking about the visit! Here are the tips they taught us, plus a few I’ve found that work for our family:
How to Teach Kids about Good Dental Hygiene
1. Show them why they should drink less juice. The amount of sugar hidden in juice is astounding. The sugar from juice and other sugary beverages fuels bacteria that make acid, which eats through baby teeth enamel, causing cavities. The Teaching Kitchen is a great place for older children to learn more about hidden sugar in the foods and beverages we eat and drink! It was in The Teaching Kitchen that we learned some interesting facts about hidden sugar and dental hygiene.
Did you know that one glass of orange juice can have almost the same amount of sugar as three donuts? Even my kids were shocked! There was also a game where they tried to match the food and how much sugar was in each food. This presentation even held the attention of our three-year-old, so if you are bringing multiple ages to the museum like we did, don't be afraid to visit.
2. Encourage them to drink more water. Water is important because it helps wash sugar off teeth from both other drinks and food. Bonus: Tap water is even better because it has fluoride which helps strengthen enamel. At The Teaching Kitchen, the kids were able to sample infused water (a great trick to get kids drinking more of it!) and even brainstorm different fruit combinations that would taste good together.
3. Read stories. Children learn through play and stories. While at the Children's Museum, my youngest and I also visited the Village of Healthy Smiles – I'll admit that this section of the museum was my favorite! We sat in the Village’s library area and read books about teeth, going to the dentist, and sugar bugs. We only read through them once and part of the time she was playing and I wasn't sure she was listening. A week or so later, we were driving down the road talking about something and she started talking about Doug the Sugar Bug who lives in her mouth. She remembered one of the books we read together! So we talked about sugar bugs and how important it was to brush our teeth so the sugar bugs didn't take up residence in our mouths and create cavities.
4. Do whatever you can to make oral care exciting. For my kids, there is something about picking out their own toothbrush that excites them when it's time to brush their teeth. They run to the bathroom to grab their toothbrush, ask to set the timer for two minutes and brush away until the timer goes off!
5. Create a routine. Both children and adults thrive on routines. Create a morning routine and an evening routine that includes flossing and brushing their teeth – not to mention the routine of seeing a dentist every six months. Soon, the new routine will become second nature.
In the Village of Healthy smiles, there is a dentist office with a chair and a “patient.” The kids can clean the patient’s teeth, and there is also a desk where they can make appointments on the computer and call patients to tell them when their next appointment is scheduled. It’s a fun way to get them excited about the routine of visiting a provider!
6. Model it. If you want your kids to have good dental hygiene, you have to show them how by doing it yourself. Floss and brush your teeth with them. If they see you making good oral health important, they will too.
7. Remember that baby teeth matter. There is a misconception that baby teeth don't matter because they fall out. However, cavities can pass from baby teeth to adult teeth. Additionally, overall oral health has a big impact on the health of the body as a whole. It can even impact learning. Did you know that the leading cause of kids missing school in Colorado is because of dental decay? It's true! The health of those baby teeth is important.