Tips for Promoting Good Dental Hygiene Habits in Children


As parents, we want our children to have healthy teeth and gums. But getting them to brush and floss regularly can be a challenge. In fact, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 63% of children aged 2-17 brush their teeth twice a day. We need to teach them the importance of dental hygiene.

Establishing good oral hygiene habits in children is crucial for their overall health and well-being. In this article, we’ll discuss some tips for promoting good oral hygiene habits in children and how to make it a fun and positive experience.

One effective way to instill positive oral hygiene habits in children is by introducing them to a pediatric dentist. Pediatric dentists specialize in the oral health of children and provide a child-friendly environment that can alleviate any anxieties associated with dental visits. Scheduling regular check-ups with a pediatric dentist not only ensures that your child’s teeth are well taken care of but also allows for early detection of any potential issues. These professionals often incorporate educational elements into their appointments, teaching children the importance of brushing, flossing, and maintaining a healthy diet. 

By making dental visits enjoyable and educational, pediatric dentistry plays a vital role in laying the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health habits.

Why Is Dental Hygiene Important for Children?

Good oral hygiene is essential for children for several reasons:

  • Prevents tooth decay: Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children, and it can lead to pain, infection, and even tooth loss.
  • Promotes healthy gums: Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease, which can cause bleeding, swelling, and even tooth loss.
  • Prevents bad breath: Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent bad breath, which can be embarrassing for children.
  • Sets the foundation for good dental habits: Establishing good oral hygiene habits in childhood can lead to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums.

Brushing Techniques for Children

Dental Hygiene Habits in Children, a girl with a toothbrush

Guidelines for Proper Oral Care As stated by the Mayo Clinic, maintaining oral cleanliness is crucial for the health of your teeth and gums. Subpar oral health can adversely impact your general health and expose you to diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Film a Toothbrushing Video Selfie Although it might seem unusual, recording videos of your toothbrushing routines can enhance your method, as suggested by a study released in the Indian Journal of Dental Research.

Brushing is the cornerstone of good oral hygiene. Here are some tips for teaching your child proper brushing techniques:

  • Start early: As soon as your child’s first tooth appears, it’s time to start brushing. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use the right technique: Show your child how to brush in small, circular motions, focusing on the front, back, and chewing surfaces of the teeth. Make sure they brush for at least two minutes.
  • Make it fun: Let your child choose their toothbrush and toothpaste to make brushing more exciting. You can also play their favorite song or use a timer to make sure they brush for the recommended two minutes.
  • Lead by example: Children learn by watching their parents, so make sure you’re practicing good brushing habits as well.

Flossing Tips for Children

Flossing is just as important as brushing for maintaining good oral hygiene. Here are some tips for teaching your child how to floss:

  • Start early: As soon as your child has two teeth that touch, it’s time to start flossing. This usually happens around the age of two.
  • Use the right technique: Show your child how to gently guide the floss between their teeth and move it up and down to remove plaque and food particles. Make sure they floss between every tooth.
  • Make it fun: You can use floss picks or flavored floss to make flossing more enjoyable for children. You can also make a game out of it by counting the teeth as you floss.

Other Teeth Cleaning Techniques for Children

In addition to brushing and flossing, there are other teeth cleaning techniques that can help promote good oral hygiene in children:

  • Tongue scraping: The tongue harbors bacteria that can cause bad breath and contribute to tooth decay. Teach your child to gently scrape their tongue with a tongue scraper or the back of their toothbrush to remove bacteria and freshen their breath.
  • Mouthwash benefits: Mouthwash can help kill bacteria and freshen breath. However, it’s not recommended for children under the age of six, as they may swallow it. For older children, choose an alcohol-free mouthwash and supervise them while they use it.

Promoting Gum Health & Dental Hygiene in Children

Healthy gums are essential for good oral hygiene. Here are some tips for promoting gum health in children:

  • Encourage a healthy diet: A diet high in sugar and processed foods can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit sugary drinks: Soda, juice, and sports drinks are high in sugar and can damage teeth and gums. Encourage your child to drink water instead.
  • Teach proper brushing and flossing techniques: As mentioned earlier, brushing and flossing are crucial for maintaining healthy gums. Make sure your child is using the right techniques and doing it regularly.

The Importance of Regular Dental Care for Children

In addition to good oral hygiene habits at home, regular dental care is essential for children. Here’s why:

  • Early detection of dental issues: Regular dental check-ups can help identify any potential dental issues early on, preventing them from becoming more severe.
  • Professional cleaning: Even with regular brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can build up on teeth. Professional cleanings can remove this buildup and prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Education: Dentists can educate children on the importance of good oral hygiene and teach them proper brushing and flossing techniques.

How to Make Dental Care Fun for Children

For many children, going to the dentist can be a scary experience. Here are some tips for making dental care fun and positive for children:

  • Start early: Take your child to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears. This will help them get used to the environment and build a positive association with dental care.
  • Use positive language: Avoid using words like “pain” or “hurt” when talking about the dentist. Instead, use positive words like “clean” and “healthy.”
  • Make it a game: You can play “dentist” at home by having your child brush and floss your teeth, then switch roles. This can help them feel more comfortable with the tools and procedures used at the dentist.
  • Reward good behavior: Praise your child for good behavior at the dentist and reward them with a small treat or activity afterward.

Common Dental Issues in Children

Even with good oral hygiene habits, children can still experience dental issues. Here are some of the most common dental issues in children and how to prevent them:

  • Tooth decay: As mentioned earlier, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children. To prevent it, make sure your child is brushing and flossing regularly, and limit their intake of sugary foods and drinks.
  • Bad breath: Bad breath can be caused by poor oral hygiene, but it can also be a sign of a more severe issue, such as gum disease. If your child has persistent bad breath, it’s best to consult a dentist.
  • Tooth grinding: Many children grind their teeth, especially at night. This can lead to tooth damage and jaw pain. If your child grinds their teeth, consult a dentist for a mouthguard.


Establishing good oral hygiene habits in children is crucial for their overall health and well-being. By teaching them proper brushing and flossing techniques, promoting gum health, and making dental care fun, you can set them up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Remember to schedule regular dental check-ups and address any dental issues early on to prevent them from becoming more severe. With these tips, you can help your child maintain a healthy and beautiful smile.

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Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Matthew Schwed

Dr. Schwed holds a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from New York University and completed his advanced pediatric dentistry training at Brookdale University Medical Center in Brooklyn. He is Board-Certified in Pediatric Dentistry. His professional interests include studying the biological underpinnings of tooth decay and oral disease, particularly focusing on the oral-systemic connection, which underscores the significant impact of oral health on overall well-being. He has also delved into advanced studies in laser dentistry, particularly in treating oral diseases and structural defects like tongue and lip ties.

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