Habits best set early on

Ian Munro.
Ian Munro.
Constant refrains in my grandchildren’s house during my recent visit were: "Have you washed your hands?" and "Have you cleaned your teeth?", writes Ian Munro.

I remember asking these questions ad nauseum until it became as much a routine habit as saying, "good morning" and ‘‘sweet dreams".

If you have children, I can almost guarantee you’ve asked one of those questions at least once by the time you read this. They must count as the most commonly asked questions in any household with children.

The teeth cleaning is perhaps the more problematic. It’s a little harder to confirm the amount of cleaning or if there was any at all. Getting your youngsters into establishing that lifelong habit can be a challenge. They just don’t see it as important, whereas the older we get and the deeper we have to dig into our pockets to pay our dental bills, the more we feel that importance.

But, of course, it’s not about money, it’s about health and for that reason the teeth cleaning needs to start early, beginning with the baby teeth. Decay in these teeth can be painful and harmful and early loss can affect the positioning of the later teeth.

From the first tooth start a twice-daily cleaning regime with a cloth or baby toothbrush. Be gentle so as not to damage gums or teeth. As the teeth come, regularly floss between them.

Once they can handle a brush, get them practising in front of a mirror and it’s not a bad idea to make shopping for their first brush a bit special.

Getting them to last the distance can be a problem. Some parents find a timer useful, getting them to brush until it beeps. We recycled one of those toys where you pull the string and it plays a lullaby which lasted almost the recommended two minutes. Or you could brush and floss together.

Hand washing, before eating and after using the toilet, playing in dirt and mud, playing with pets and coughing and sneezing into them, is another lifelong health habit we need to establish early.

You can’t beat a good soaping and washing under warm running water. Show them how to wash the fronts and backs of their hands, wrists, between fingers and under the fingernails for about 20 seconds, and then to rinse under running water and dry vigorously.

The simple act of washing hands does reduce the spread of illness in homes and schools, particularly for colds, flu and intestinal upsets.

At home, steer away from the antiseptic gels as many of the bacteria we come in contact with help develop our immunity and many are actually protecting us.

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