Upon returning home from your “date night,” you probably don’t want to think about dental care for your kids. It may seem like an inconvenience to remind the babysitter to ensure the kids’ teeth are brushed. But, it will be more of a pain if they’re not getting regular care to prevent cavities in kids.
Less than 30 years ago, buckling children into car seats was the exception and not the rule. Now you would never let someone drive your child without a car seat. Consider the same for young teeth: cavities are nearly 100% preventable and all it takes is routine brushing and regular check-ups with a dentist.
Why You Shouldn’t Let Babysitters Bypass Brushing:
- Skipping sets a bad precedent. Kids would rather finish their vegetables than brush their teeth, and this tendency can lead to oral health complications that creep into other aspects of everyday life.
- According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, 58 and 80 school hours, respectively, are missed annually per 100 elementary and high school-aged children. Additionally, parents are forced to miss an average of 2.5 days of work or school per year due to their children’s dental issues. Don’t let something so simple spiral out of control. Brush diligently.
Repetition Is Key:
- Routines are good for kids. Research has shown that a bedtime ritual, including brushing and flossing, can play a crucial role in the quality of sleep a child gets. The same goes for early eating habits, which can persist for years. Build the foundation of a solid oral health routine early for sustained success.
- Ask sitters to stick to your established schedule. Leave specific instructions about bedtime basics: when it’s time for bed, how many books can be read, what kind of toothpaste is used, etc. Make sure to put jammies, toothbrushes, and water cups out ahead of time to ensure a (nearly) flawless routine.
Make It Fun:
- Brushing your teeth already seems like a chore, so don’t be afraid to make it interesting! Leave a tablet in the bathroom so babysitters can pump up the jams for a toothbrush dance party!
- Use a brushing reward chart (here’s one!) and inform sitters about the process. This way, you’ll know if the deed was done without having to ask directly (and you’re secretly creating those good habits we mentioned earlier).
Prep Sitters to Lend a Hand:
- To prevent cavities in kids, sometimes you need to get your hands dirty. Small children lack the dexterity to reach every pearly white. As exciting as it is to see little ones assert their independence, the ones proclaiming, “I can do it myself!” often need help brushing properly. A good rule of thumb: children can brush on their own if they can tie their shoes.
- Ask sitters to tap in. They can brush the spaces children may have missed, such as the inside of the back molars. Make sure teeth are being scrubbed evenly for the full two minutes required. And they won’t forget the floss! C-shaped flossers are kid-friendly and get the job done quickly. Because if they’re not going to do it right, what’s the point of doing it at all?
Be Firm Yet Flexible:
- Some rules can be bent. Other rules can be broken. Stand your ground when it comes to dental care for your kids. Review what’s permissible when it comes to straying from the usual system. One extra book is fine, but an additional hour of TV is not. And dessert is OK, but no eating after brushing, and no juice before bed!
Dental care should start at age one. Even though baby teeth fall out, bacteria stay put. Make sure that good oral health habits are a top priority in your household, whether you’re home or not.
Editor’s Note: Content updated February 2019.