We all know how difficult it is for us adults to remember to take the full two minutes to brush twice a day and floss in the right way. It isn’t easy to do it just right even when we aren’t so busy that we forget. None of us grew up really understanding how important oral care was and many still don’t know how periodontal bacteria can increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But we have good reason to be motivated after a lifetime of the almost inevitable dental problems, from fillings and gum infection to cracked or lost teeth.
Remember, though, when you were a kid. When you were under six you knew you’d be getting brand new teeth soon, so why all the bother with cleaning? You probably never had the pain of a cavity. A bit older and brushing and flossing wasn’t much fun. As a pre-teen, you no doubt had a severe sweet tooth and want to be popular and share sugary snacks. Halloween started off the holidays super-charging that desire.
There are some things you can do to help your children develop an appreciation for good dental habits and keep the otherwise inevitable pain and high dental bills down. First, assume they don’t really remember what you’ve told them about all this, since they have much more important things on their minds, such as finishing a video game or reading tweets from friends. If they are of significantly different ages, explain things one by one as how a dentist would.
If they have had a toothache, ask if they want to experience that and maybe a worse one repeatedly. If they have not had a cavity, tell them it’s as if they fell down and hit their head, but the pain won’t go away for weeks until a doctor treats it. And let younger ones know it would cost a year’s worth of their allowance to fix (if teens have a job, let them know they will have to pay part of the bill). For kids of any age, go over exactly how to brush and floss and have them use a periodontal rinse.
Buy snacks and desserts sweetened with xylitol, which actually helps fight periodontal disease. Ask them to resist eating too many cookies and cakes at parties and brush as soon as they can afterwards.
The holidays are a good time to reinforce the positive messages about the benefits of good oral health, without taking away the enjoyment of the season.