They’re too Young to take Dental Hygiene into their own Hands.
My son is five and a half. I still brush his teeth; twice a day, every day. My daughter is 9 and I regularly supervise her brushing technique to make sure those pearly whites stay, well, pearly white. Because they are young children. And as much as they’d love the independence, when it comes to looking after their gnashers, Mum, -sometimes Dad – and the dentist, really know best.
I am amazed at the number of parents who let their small kids get on with it!
Please don’t read this as a preachy article. I am guessing I have just been infinitely blessed with dentists who dish out sound advice. Because that’s the thing: as parents (particularly Mums, it has to be said), we are all for letting our opinion be known on any range of parenting topics from breastfeeding to organic Ella’s Kitchen purees versus growing our own turnips and pears in our Yummy Mummy gardens.
But when it comes to oral hygiene and its vitally important twice daily routine, we are (many of us, perhaps even most of us) frankly quite clueless at best.
I will even include myself in that list… for whilst I may well be temporarily in charge of my smallest child’s teeth, I hardly set a timer for the recommended stroke time of at least two minutes.
Bizarrely, it’s something we never really chat about let alone really write about. But it’s time to address the issue because:
Until the age of seven, children just aren’t ready to go solo.
And those words don’t come from me, but both our former and current dentists (a male and a female of two completely different nationalities, from two completely different geographic locations – since you ask). How so? Quite simply: children under the age of seven do not have the manual dexterity to brush their teeth properly.
It’s like we as parents have made the assumption that if our children can wash and dress themselves, they can damn well clean their toothie pegs too.
Which is why there are such soaring levels of tooth decay among our little ones.
Not just because of the fizzy drinks epidemic, but because we’ve (with all our good intentions, I’m sure) granted them a responsibility they are just not mature enough for. Or perhaps, dare I say it? Yes I will: we, as parents are LAZY.
This article written for The Telegraph a couple of years ago, shocked me to the core – it suggests that our parenting skills have become so slack, that in some parts of Britain, the state has had to intervene, with children having their teeth brushed at flippin’ school!
Not only are we as parents, often not taking two minutes out of our morning per child to ensure our precious Princes and Princesses have healthy teeth and gums… but some parents out there don’t even realise teeth cleaning is AN ACTUAL THING!
Well it is a thing, and if we don’t catch onto it soon, the lack of care and attention in our children’s lives ends up a little – or a lot – like this:
- Tooth decay and fillings (grossly unattractive and unnatural in a child under seven)
- Gum disease
- Smelly breath
- Loss of adult teeth through serious rotting
- Heart problems – yes, potentially not brushing teeth properly can lead to infection getting into the blood stream.
- Being set up for a potential life-time of being carefree when it comes to oral hygiene… and let’s face it, all hygiene. If teeth don’t matter, why should any other body parts?
I don’t know about you, but for me, that little list is more than enough.
There will always be exceptions to the rule…
Those amazing ‘model’ kids who just ‘get it’, who just instinctively know how to brush their teeth not only well, but better than any intervening adult. That is true, undeniably so. And of course the children whose parents are masters at supervising, pointing and checking that every individual tooth is shiny and white.
But these are the exceptions to the rule. Your child, below the age of seven, simply doesn’t have the same ability as an older child, as an adult, to reach those far flung places where food deposits lurk. Their wrists and hands cannot move to the degree required to access all parts of the mouth with a toothbrush.
It’s as simple as that.
Mums and Dads far and wide, unless your tiny child is coming back from the dentists with a sparkling record of oral health every visit, do them the biggest favour: take back control of their teeth!
They are this young for such a wee while. And while they are this young, they deserve the gift of a beautiful smile.