I am a busy mom of six children. Three are grown and gone and three are 10 or under. One of the biggest struggles I have had all of these years is enforcing the routine habits of oral hygiene. Don’t get me wrong, I have made them do it… twice a day. Unfortunately, looking back, I realize that it is one of those things that I took care of myself for a couple of years and then when they appeared capable, I passed the torch – or toothbrush – did a quick explanation and from then on out I simply gave out reminders as needed. This has hardly been a proactive approach of the care of teeth that will stay with them for 40, 50, 60 – or more years.
I see my wrong doing. I see the evidence of it every day. I see the sometimes clean teeth and the other times not-so-clean teeth.
Recently, while taking care of my own teeth, I got to thinking about the age of the teeth that grace my smile. Reflecting on my youth, I was unable to recall anyone taking the time to actually teach me how to properly care for them… I had to learn on my own through the years, sometimes as a result of cavities and root canals.
It was time to do something about this. Things needed to change in our house. The adult teeth in our children’s mouths still have a long journey ahead of them. Teaching, on purpose, proper oral care to an audience that was capable of learning proper habits was long overdue. After making an announcement, all three little people joined me in the bathroom and lined up in front of the mirror. I went over a fun and lighthearted overview of proper oral care with a solid focus on brushing techniques:
Inspect your toothbrush for cleanliness – you never know what may have been around in the last 12 hours.
- Enough is enough – too much toothpaste is too much (and used for advertising photos) and too little is too little, you just need a pea-sized portion.
- Brush for a FULL TWO MINUTES and maybe even a bit longer – I’m thankful for our Sonicare toothbrushes with built-in two-minute timers.
- Rinse – your mouth AND your toothbrush.
- On to flossing – this is probably the most important habit to develop that I want my children to develop.
- Mouthwash/Rinse – we don’t purchase commercial mouthwash as we aim to be a fluoride-free house – however, we do use 2.5 pH acidic water. Don’t worry folks… it’s just water that has been taken through an electrolysis process to generate it’s highly effective sanitizing properties.
- For the final step we had a talk about cleaning out the sink – to leave it clean for the next person to visit the bathroom -this could very well have been one of the most important conversations of the evening!
I wish I had done this sooner! It has been so easy to overlook, yet such a valuable discussion with long-term benefits or effects. We can’t undo cavities. It’s also much harder to change habits after habits have been developed. I recognize that the habits that they have developed have been appropriate for a three year old, but not for a 5, 7 or 10 year old!
It’s only been a week since the infamous visit to the bathroom mirror. I have to say that I have noticed cleaner teeth over these last several days, as well as a cleaner sink. Interestingly though, my greatest satisfaction has come from their daily use of floss. I not sure know why, but it brings me great joy to know that they know HOW to use them and that they ACTUALLY do.
I sat in on their brushing routine last night to casually monitor. All three of them progressed through the steps without hesitance… I don’t think they were doing it just for my benefit. It left me feeling a bit proud. I am hoping that they will be able to enjoy those beautiful pearly whites for decades to come!
As parents, we all have something that we want to be certain to teach our children… what have you taken the time to focus on with yours?