If you’re a parent of young children, one of the most frustrating parts of your day may be getting your kids to brush their teeth. Having something scrubbing around your mouth for a minute or two can be quite scary or annoying, and children can hardly sit still long enough to do anything so monotonous.Fear or anxiety may be keeping your child from brushing.
Most adults don’t like to visit the dentist every six months to have someone poking around their mouth; it’s hard to imagine kids enjoying having a parent poke in their mouths twice a day. So how can you make it more fun and create a healthy oral routine for your children? We’ve made a list of 11 tips to help you do just that. Take the time to implement them, and be amazed at how excited your kiddos will become about brushing time!
Children love to do what their parents do. If your child is scared of brushing his or her teeth, show them that it’s a normal activity by letting them watch you brush your teeth.
As it becomes routine and less frightening, your child will likely want to brush his or her own teeth just like you do. Make sure to demonstrate good technique; kids are really good at watching and then doing.
Make it a Game
This is one of the easiest tips to follow. If your child is resistant to brushing his or her teeth, try making it into a game. You can let them make funny noises, such as “teeeee” for the front teeth, “ahhhhh” so you can reach the back teeth and letting them “roar” loudly to get a wide-open mouth. Another great game to play to get kids comfortable with brushing their teeth is to bring it up in the middle of the day, way before it’s time brush his or her teeth for bed. Let your child brush his or her dolls teeth or even let them brush your teeth. You can each take turns.
Plaque Disclosing Tablets
These little tablets, which are available online or at your pharmacy, stain the plaque on the teeth so that your child can see what areas he’s not brushing. These are a fun tool for kids because it makes the bad, invisible plaque something that’s real and that they can see.
You can try using these before brushing and then try to brush away all the color or after brushing so that kids see the problem areas they’re not reaching.
Crank Out the Tunes
Music is a great way to get kids interested, or a little more interested, in brushing their teeth. That’s probably why you’ve seen commercials for toothbrushes that play popular songs on a timer. Each night, let your kid choose a song and then everyone brushes his or her teeth until the song is over. Another option is to sing a song with your kids about brushing their teeth. The music is an entertaining way to let kids know that there’s an end in sight. Here are a few fun YouTube videos with songs you could use. This one is more of a nursery rhyme for younger children. Slightly older kids might appreciate this one:
Tell a story
Telling your child a story can be a fun way of keeping their mind off of the tooth brushing. This tip is especially helpful for when you’re brushing his or her teeth. Try teasing your child by looking into their mouth and saying, “Oh! I see that you had green beans for dinner. I’m just going to get those out.” Some parents even like to make up stories about the sugar bugs that like to hurt teeth. You could also read her favorite bedtime story as she brushes her teeth.
Skip the Toothpaste
Though toothpaste is an important part of dental hygiene, the most important part of brushing your teeth is brushing away the plaque. This can be done with any abrasive surface, such as a toothbrush. Toothpaste is an added bonus, but many children don’t like toothpaste. Try brushing without toothpaste for a while and then try to bring it slowly back in. Just a small drop of toothpaste on their toothbrush is sufficient.
Make it Fun
This one takes a little patience and creativity, but it will really pay off. Some ideas for making teeth brushing fun is to name each tooth and tell your child that each one deserves equal attention. This will appeal to their sense of justice and begin to teach them about tooth brushing technique. Another idea is to let your child pick out a fun timer like the one below, or a toothbrush that lights up and brush in the dark.
Find an Interesting Toothpaste Flavors
There are lots of great flavors of toothpaste out there, even some strange ones, (see our article on interesting flavor options here) but having options will give your child the power to choose one that they like. Be sure to check out Tom’s of Maine and Jack N’ Jill of Australia for flavors such as strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and orange mango.
This can be the best tip of them all when helping your child get their teeth clean. Instead of turning it into a power struggle, try to distract kids with silly songs, stories, music or even TV. It’s ok for kids to brush without toothpaste in front of the TV. It’s best if kids brush after they’re done eating for the day, but that doesn’t have to be right before bed. Brushing an exhausted toddler’s teeth is harder than brushing them before they get too tired.
Give your Child Control
This is such an important tip for helping your kids to brush their teeth and grow into independent humans. Let your child pick their own toothbrush, toothpaste, where they want to brush, if they want to sit or stand and what song they want to listen to while they brush. You might even let him brush at the same time you do or just hold a brush in his hands.
Remember What’s Important
Always remember any amount and quality of brushing is better than not brushing at all. Though it’s important to teach kids proper brushing technique and that they should brush for 2 minutes morning and night, getting kids to independently brush their teeth is the first step. If you can get your kid to brush for 30 seconds, that’s 30 seconds better than not brushing. Quality and timeliness may have to come later.This boy’s teeth are healthy and white.
It’s important for kids to start brushing their teeth at an early age and to start flossing as soon as they have two teeth that touch to keep a healthy white smile. We here at Dr. Ku’s dental office in Fort Worth hope these tips help to make brushing with your kids easier and more fun.