Developing Your Child’s Healthy Dental Hygiene Habits [Guest Post]

This guest post was contributed by Jennifer Walsh, who writes about dental health, hygiene and becoming a dental assistant at

According to a 2000 report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, having good health should—indeed must—include good oral health. Yet, approximately 75 percent of Americans have some form of periodontal disease, a potentially dangerous condition because it can affect much more than the teeth. Periodontal disease (and dental decay) is an infection that often spreads to other parts of the body. Indeed, such oral health issues have been linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Tooth decay and periodontal diseases, however, are almost entirely preventable, but it has to start with you, the parent. By helping your child to develop healthy dental hygiene habits—early on—you can mold behaviors that will ensure your child not only healthier teeth, but also a healthier body.

The Problem with Cavities

Cavities are a big problem in America and particularly with the children of America. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “[d]ental caries (tooth decay) is the single most chronic childhood disease – five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever.”

Cavities are caused by the inability, or the unwillingness, to sufficiently remove the cause of cavities (foods and beverages) from the teeth. Anything consumed, if not brushed away, will create plaque on our teeth. When this plaque later mixes with the sugars and starches of the diet, it creates an acid that eats away the enamel of the teeth. The result is cavities.

Cavities are not a minor problem for children. Indeed, such dental decay has been proven to hinder a child’s learning ability, thus delaying mental development and stunting scholastic achievement. But there is a way to help your child to minimize or even prevent cavities for a lifetime—by instilling the good dental hygiene habits of:

  • Regular brushing
  • Regular flossing
  • Regular dental visits
  • Teaching your Child the Value of Brushing

According to the American Dental Association, you should start your child on a regular tooth brushing routine with the first tooth. Begin brushing this first tooth with just a little bit of water on the brush, but no toothpaste. (Children under the age of two should not use toothpaste). This is an excellent way to teach your child the importance of tooth brushing for good oral health.

You can start to teach your child to brush his own teeth as soon as you feel the child is ready (usually around the age of two). Help your child to put a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste on the brush, assist him in brushing his teeth, then make sure that he spits the remaining toothpaste out into the sink. (Most children should be able to brush their own teeth—unassisted—by the age of seven).

Teaching your child to brush his teeth twice a day (first thing in the morning and right before bedtime) will instill a valuable dental hygiene habit, which will protect your child from the ravages of dental decay.


You should incorporate regular flossing into your child’s dental routine as soon as he has two teeth that touch. Flossing is important for removing the food particles between teeth that the toothbrush misses. There are many good sources online that teach proper flossing methods. In addition, you may ask the dentist to demonstrate proper flossing techniques upon your child’s first dental visit.

Regular Dental Visits

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that a child have his first dental visit before the age of one. This is an important visit for your child. In it, the dentist will assess your child’s future risk for cavities and prescribe specific oral hygiene techniques that can safely avert these risks.

Thereafter, a child should visit the dentist approximately every six months for regular checkups and teeth cleanings. Such regular dental visits, in combination with brushing and flossing, will ensure your child a lifelong dental hygiene habit that will avert the many dangers of tooth decay and disease. And it all starts with YOU.

This guest post was contributed by Jennifer Walsh, who writes about dental health, hygiene and becoming a dental assistant at

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