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How do I teach my kids good hygiene habits?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It is never too early to start teaching your child good hygiene habits. Watch this video as Dr. Mike Roizen and Dr. Ellen Rome discuss what you can do to encourage your child to have a healthy body.
 
Carol Jahn
Dentist
Helping children develop good oral hygiene habits at an early age can help ensure they can have good oral health for life. The challenges for children and good oral hygiene can be related to dexterity, orthodontics, the mixed dentition (having both baby and adult teeth at the same time), or even a dislike of the taste of toothpaste. If your child stuggles with any of these things, consider adding a water flosser to their daily routine. There is now a model designed specifically for 6-12 years old -- featuring a smaller handle and fun decals. The water flosser comes with an orthodontic tip that can help clean orthodontic appliance and access crowded teeth. It works with plain tap water so it will please those that don't like the strong flavors of toothpaste or mouthrinse.
Start teaching your kids early about oral hygiene so they will develop excellent habits that will take them throughout their lives. Brush and floss your children's teeth until they are 6 or 7 years old, and then when they're ready, teach them how to brush and floss their teeth on their own. It's a good idea, however, to continue supervising their daily mouth care for a few more years.

Take your children to the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings, where they will also learn the benefits of good oral hygiene.
The consequences of poor hygiene habits often aren’t immediately apparent, so it’s tough for children -- and even adults, for that matter -- to see the connection. That’s where you step in. Spend time talking to your kids about how their body works. Explain what role germs and hygiene play in keeping them healthy and in making them sick. Discuss both the short-term and long-term effects of good hygiene habits, and the consequences of neglecting these habits. Here are some effects of bad hygiene to share with your child:

Short-Term Effects of Bad Hygiene:
  • Itchy skin, outbreaks, rashes
  • More colds and flu
  • Bad breath
  • Body odor
  • Social difficulties
  • Pinworm
  • Food poisoning
Long-Term Effects of Bad Hygiene:
  • Scarred skin from outbreaks
  • Depressed immune system, more susceptible to disease
  • Cavities, gingivitis
  • Serious infections
  • Career difficulties
  • Social isolation
  • Depression
From Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

More About this Book

Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children

When kids start going on TV binges or devouring fistfuls of cookies, it's easy to say, "They'll grow out of it." More likely, they're acquiring bad habits that could lead to childhood obesity and...
Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine
It is never too early to start teaching your child good hygiene habits. Spend time talking to your kids about how their body works. Explain what role germs and hygiene play in keeping them healthy and in making them sick. Discuss both the short-term and long-term effects of good hygiene habits, and the consequences of neglecting these habits. Here are some effects of bad hygiene to share with your child:

Short-Term Effects of Bad Hygiene: 
  • Itchy skin, outbreaks, rashes 
  • More colds and flu 
  • Bad breath 
  • Body odor 
  • Social difficulties 
  • Pinworm 
  • Food poisoning 
  • Long-Term Effects of Bad Hygiene: 
  • Scarred skin from outbreaks 
  • Depressed immune system, more susceptible to disease 
  • Cavities, gingivitis 
  • Serious infections 
  • Career difficulties 
  • Social isolation 
  • Depression

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.