Every parent knows that it is essential for their children to take care of their teeth. However, most parents struggle to find the best ways to explain oral hygiene to their kids in a way that both stresses the importance and yet still makes sense to young minds. Once you start using words like “cavities” or “plaque”, your children can quickly become lost.
The best way to explain cavities to your children is to tell them the truth and use words, phrases, and examples that they can understand. If you make up analogies or pretend terms, your goals may backfire. For example, if you use pretend scenarios to explain what is happening in their mouth, your child may actually start to develop a fear of natural processes, instead of being motivated to conquer the “villains” in their mouth.
Here are the key things you should focus on when explaining cavities to your children:
Explain that while sugar tastes great on our tongues, sugar is not so kind to our teeth. Do your best to teach your child that sugary treats are connected to special occasions and that to take care of our teeth, we should be careful to not eat sugar all of the time.
Talk about how sugar can start to cause holes in our teeth if we don’t brush our teeth often enough. Rather than making “often enough” a vague term, use specific examples. Tell your child that brushing after meals and before bed will help to scrub the sugar off of their teeth.
You can further explain that having holes in our teeth will make it hard to eat. Explain that healthy teeth are important because we love to smile, talk, and eat every day.
Tell your child that sugar is not the only thing that can cause trouble for our teeth, so even when we are being extra careful about not eating too much sugar, we still have to take good care of our teeth everyday.
Reinforce that we need to go to the dentist to make sure that we do not get holes in our teeth. Describe the dentist as a friend who helps us figure out if we have a problem with our teeth so that we can fix it before it causes us pain.
As you discuss cavities with your children, keep the conversation very positive and optimistic. Intentionally stay away from anything that would make the topic scary. You can use age appropriate explanations to describe cavities to your children in a way that will make them willing, and perhaps even excited, to practice good dental hygiene.