Your Child’s Oral Health Habits

Whether it takes an oratory extravaganza to get your children in front of the sink to brush their teeth or a simple reminder that it’s bed time, Dr. Wright would like to offer some suggestions on reinforcing the importance of brushing, flossing, and rinsing every day. The theoretical explanation of a habit occurs in three stages: trigger, routine, and reward. These three stages mark the entire process of a habit, and your children could benefit from their oral health responsibilities.

The Trigger

Each and every human being on this planet has triggers that set off responses or routines. In most cases the chain reaction ends with a reward that motivates the person to react to the trigger in the first place.

For example, a school bell is a trigger for students to pack their things, stand from their desk, leave the class. Their inherent reward, depending on the person, could be anything from meeting friends in the hall, getting to the next class, or just being released from focus required to learn.

Another example, your appliances in your house. Most people have a beep or a chime when the washer or dryer has finished its cycle. The microwave emits sound when the cooking is complete. The alarm on your phone or next to your bed initiates the start of your day. All of these things are considered triggers which start a routine you complete in search of a reward.

The Routine

Something as simple as getting dressed in the morning or putting on your right shoe before the left is a routine, which was initiated by a trigger. The routine is the most malleable portion of a habit. A child’s response to something like “It’s time for bed,” is their routine. You can interrupt this routine and influence their response, which in turn can form into a new habit over time.

The Reward

Every habit has a reward, whether it be a piece of candy or a cup of coffee from your favorite coffee shop. The reward is what motivates you or your child to complete the routine after it’s been triggered.

To make this process the most successfully, identify the existing trigger and reward and work on modifying the routine.  Your brain naturally wants to do the least amount of work possible, reducing stress, increasing health, and opening up brain power for other things more important.

You’ll be surprised at the change, over time, that it will instill in your children and you for accomplishing the near impossible feat of encouraging your children to brush, floss, and rinse each evening before bed.


As a native Texan, Gregory Wright, DDS, opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.