Caring for your child's teeth when they are an infant and a toddler is relatively easy, since you do most of the care yourself. But as your child approaches preschool age, they will begin to want to do some of the care themselves. The idea of seeing the dentist may also become a bit scary, and you may have to work to persuade them that brushing and flossing their teeth is actually worthwhile. So, how do you handle all of this? How can you ensure that your preschool-aged child gets the dental care they need? Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Have them brush alongside you.
Preschoolers are old enough to start doing at least some of their tooth brushing themselves. However, if you watch them brush, you may notice that they focus a lot on a few teeth, while skipping other teeth. A good way to ensure they do a more thorough job is to brush your teeth alongside them as they brush theirs. Instruct them to follow your lead, moving their brush from place to place as you do. Focus on the top left, and then the top right, and so forth. Over time, this routine will become second-nature, and your preschooler will be less likely to miss parts of their mouth.
2. Let them choose their toothbrush and toothpaste.
Preschool-age children like to be busy, busy, busy. If something seems boring, they will set it aside and move onto something else. So, if you can manage to make tooth brushing less boring, it will hold their attention more easily. A good way to do this is to let your preschooler come with you to the store and choose a toothbrush and toothpaste. If they get to brush with their favorite red Cars toothbrush and their grape-flavored toothpaste, they're more likely to do so.
3. Treat going to the dentist like a normal thing.
Sometimes, children get their fear of the dentist from their parents. If you talk apprehensively about dental appointments or even say anything to suggest that seeing the dentist is less than pleasant, your child may pick up on this and develop a disdain for the dentist. So, abide by the rule that "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" when it comes to the dentist.
4. Watch videos about dental care.
Preschool is also the time when some kids develop a bit of a rebellious streak against their parents. They are beginning to get used to listening to other authority figures—like teachers—but they may give their parents a run for their money. If the messages about dental care and dental hygiene are coming from someone other than you, they may make more of an impact. So show your preschooler videos about the importance of dental care and how to brush their teeth. Make sure they are age-appropriate. Animated videos are often best at this age.
5. Don't keep sugary drinks in the home.
At this age, your child may begin helping themselves to snacks and drinks. If you do not want them going for sugary foods and drinks that are bad for their teeth, don't make a habit of buying these foods. Instead, buy healthy snacks like string cheese, carrot sticks, and nuts. If you do buy candy for a special occasion, store it somewhere that your preschooler can't find it. The less sugar they eat, the better their oral health will remain.
If you follow the tips above, your preschooler will be off to a great start with their dental health. Ask your pediatric dentist like William E Kemper DMD for additional tips and advice.