Keep Smiling: How To Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth
Parents understand, experts in the field of pediatric dentistry understand…but how do you get kids to understand the importance of brushing their teeth? The topic of pediatric dental care is one that most parents wrestle with from time to time. As children grow and become more independent they often want to start brushing their teeth by themselves. While it’s important to encourage independence, horough brushing and comprehensive oral health care is vital to setting children up for a lifetime of good dental health.
Aside from solid teeth-brushing skills, there are other oral hygiene basics that children need to learn. A combination of brushing, flossing and mouthwash to kill germs and prevent plaque buildup forms a three-prong approach that can help your child for lifelong habits that contribute to the best dental health possible. Similar to any other important skill you want to teach your children, learning to properly brush their teeth and follow other dental care practices is something that requires effort on your part. Incorporate these tips to help you teach your kids to brush their teeth and form other habits that lead to a healthy mouth.
- Get Started Early. Good toothbrushing skills should actually begin before your baby even has teeth. Even before your baby introduced to solids you can start cleaning his or her gums after each feeding by wiping them down with a damp piece of sterile gauze. Doing so keeps the gums clean and healthy, while introducing early dental care to your child. Between the ages of 12 and 18 months, it’s time to start brushing your child’s teeth with a soft-bristled child’s toothbrush. Use water only to gently brush the teeth, making sure to get to the molars in the back of the mouth. Your child is likely to clamp down on the toothbrush and that’s a normal part of the process. Make toothbrushing a relaxing ritual so your baby views it as a positive time with mom or dad.
- Quality Counts. Brushing well is more important than brushing often. Use the Rule of Three to guide your toothbrushing efforts. Help your young child brush his or her teeth at least three times each day for three minutes at a time. When your little one turns three years old, start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste teach your child to spit it out.
- Make Dental Care Enjoyable. Little children learn best through play. While toothbrushing is serious business, it’s best to keep the time with your child lighthearted and fun. Use an egg timer to time the length of brushing and let your child be the one to start it. Sing favorite songs while helping him or her brush their teeth. Use a mirror so your little ones can watch their own toothbrushing efforts. When boredom starts to set in, add a little excitement by introducing a new toothpaste, toothbrush or making a game of dental care.
- Introduce Other Oral Hygiene Techniques. As soon as your child’s teeth are touching it’s time to start flossing them. Take turns with dental care by allowing preschool children to brush, followed by you taking a turn to floss. Once your child turns six years old, he or she can take over the flossing and start using mouthwash.
- Positive Reinforcement. It won’t be until much later that your child brushes his or her teeth purely to have a clean mouth and fresh breath. Until these more mature motivations start to kick in, use positive reinforcements such as sticker charts or stars to acknowledge your child’s efforts. Encourage your child to accumulate stickers to reach specific goals and then let him or her pick a small prize out of a dental care treasure box, such as a new toothbrush or another inexpensive item.
In addition to teaching children how to brush and helping them do so, it’s important that you model the habits you’re trying to teach. Children observe and mimic the things they see their parents do, so your excellent dental care habits will encourage their habits as much as any techniques you teach them. Above all, avoid letting toothbrushing become a chore. The minute kids start dreading something it becomes a battle of the wills. If you observe that dental care is becoming chore-like, it’s time to mix things up to keep it fun and interesting.
The development of a lifelong habit of good dental care starts before babies and toddlers cut their first teeth. A skill or habit introduced early on in life is treated as a matter of course by the child as he or she grows up. As the field of pediatric dentistry and companies that work to create kid-friendly dental care products continue to work to make dental care enjoyable, you can carry their efforts to the home using the tips above. Incorporating these tips into your children’s lives will help them form important habits that promote good health for many years to come.