Children learn by copying important adults in their lives. This is a natural process by which children learn about the world around them. Your behaviour, expressions and reactions will usually have a greater impact on your child than what you say to them.
Parents have a unique position of influence in their children’s lives, as a role model and first teacher. This influence can have either a positive or negative effect. How can we use this influence in a positive way to improve our children’s oral health?
Parents choose what babies and young children eat. Parents usually introduce children to the same foods that they eat. If children are given a healthy, balanced diet at an early age they are much more likely to choose a healthy diet themselves when they are older.
If you are constantly snacking on high fat and high sugar snacks your children are likely to do the same. When shopping, plan your meals and also think about healthy food to keep in the house for snacks when you or your children get hungry between meals. ( For more information on a diet that is good for you teeth see this link.) . Give your children a good example to follow by letting them see you brushing your teeth regularly. Teach your child about the importance of looking after their teeth. There are books and videos which can make learning fun.
You will need to brush your child’s teeth until they can learn to do it effectively for themselves from around six years old. Older children will still require encouragement and supervision. Also see post on top toothbrushing tips.
Children whose parents regularly visit the dentist are more likely to do the same. Take your child to visit a dentist before they have any pain or problems. Find a dentist who is good with children. Regular check-ups enable the dentist to assess your child’s risk for developing decay or gum disease and give preventive advice. Any problems can also be seen early and treated or prevented from progressing.
Did you know that children whose parents are anxious about visiting the dentist are much more likely to become anxious themselves? A recent study showed that parents’ attitude towards dentistry are often passed on to their children. Children look to their parents to learn how to respond to a new situation and can pick up on their parent’s anxiety. This means that some children are very anxious even before they first visit the dentist.