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This week, cosmetic dentist Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle brings us some practical tips for kids and toothbrushing. I know I’m not the only one that has a full on battle some nights to get their child(ren) to brush their teeth. I hope her insight will help you like it has for me! Enjoy! 🙂
Are you having a hard time getting your kids to brush their teeth regularly?
If so, you’re not alone. Many kids don’t like the taste of regular toothpaste. Others hate the sensation of the bristles of their toothbrush rubbing up against the inside of their mouths.
Still, regular brushing is an indispensable part of dental care for kids. Toothbrushing should never be optional if we want our children to grow up with healthy teeth and gums.
So even if your kids don’t like brushing their teeth, you have to do whatever it takes to get them to make it part of their routine.
Some parents resort to nagging their kids about it. A gentler and more agreeable approach, however, would be to try to make tooth brushing fun for them.
Related read: Examples of Play-based Learning for Toddlers
Here are eight tips that can help you do just that.
1. Let them choose their toothbrush.
Toothbrushes these days come in all sorts of colors and designs. Your kid may not like brushing, but he certainly would love to get his hands on toothbrushes with his favorite superhero or cartoon character printed on them.
While giving your child the freedom to pick his toothbrush at the store, make sure his choices are age-appropriate. You wouldn’t want your kid to end up with a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard.
2. Go for more fun-flavored toothpaste.
Making your child use the same toothpaste you’re using could be the reason he hates brushing. After all, your minty-fresh toothpaste could be too strong for your kid.
Fortunately, toothpaste manufacturers have seen fit to offer their products in flavors that your kid will most certainly love.
There’s bubble gum-flavored toothpaste, one of the most popular kid-friendly toothpaste flavors out there.
If your child loves fruits, toothpaste that tastes like strawberry, banana, and watermelon will make toothbrushing a more enjoyable experience.
The next time you visit the supermarket, have your kid tag along and let him choose any toothpaste flavor he likes.
Related read: How to Keep the House Clean with Little Kids
3. Brush your teeth together.
For children, brushing could get quite dull if they’re doing it alone.
Why not make brushing a group activity?
By brushing your teeth together, your child will learn how to brush his teeth properly as you lead by example. More importantly, your child will enjoy doing it with you as it makes brushing a little less boring than usual.
4. Bring in your kid’s favorite toy.
You know how very young children love having their toys around. When it’s toothbrushing time, you can use your kid’s favorite toy to make the whole activity more fun for him.
Put the toy somewhere where your tot can see it, then tell a story about the importance of brushing in a voice that would make it seem like it’s the toy that’s doing the talking.
As your child’s face brightens up as his favorite toy “tells” a story as he brushes, you can take the opportunity to have his toy “give” brushing directions, too. When he’s finished brushing, don’t forget to have the toy “praise” your kid for a job well done.
Related read: 6 Toddler Activities to Keep Them Busy and Learning
5. Play your child’s favorite song.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that we brush our teeth twice a day, and for two minutes every single time.
Since it’s likely that your kid’s favorite song lasts at around two minutes as well, how about playing it as you both brush your teeth?
Have your kid brush for the duration of the song, and he will have fun while brushing thoroughly enough to remove food particles and plaque more effectively.
To make things even more interesting, you can sing your kid’s favorite song yourself or ask him to sing along even as he brushes. That would form memories your kid will definitely treasure as he grows up.
A little dance routine as you both brush your teeth would make things extra fun, too.
6. Have your kid practice on dolls or stuffed toys.
Practice makes perfect, but you can’t have your child brushing his teeth more than two times a day just to get the whole thing down pat. Too much brushing can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums, and you wouldn’t want your child to go through any of that.
If your child needs more practice to get brushing right, you can use a doll or stuffed toy for that very purpose. Give your child an extra toothbrush that’s not being used, and walk him through the proper brushing techniques using the doll or stuffed toy.
It’s like hitting two birds with one stone: your kid will master proper toothbrushing and will get to play with the toy some more, too.
7. Come up with a reward system for consistent toothbrushing.
Few things are as motivating for children as rewards.
If you want your child to make a habit of toothbrushing, rewarding them every single time they achieve the task should encourage them to do it regularly.
Since you’re teaching your kid the finer things of dental and oral health, you should, of course, refrain from giving out candy as a reward.
Give your child stickers or stamps instead. Their choice of a bedtime story or TV show to watch would make for a good reward, too.
Related read: Fun Gifts Ideas for Toddlers
8. Use tooth brushing apps.
Your kid might also find it more fun to brush their teeth with the help of toothbrushing apps, of which there are plenty.
Aside from teaching kids the proper brushing techniques, toothbrushing apps on a smartphone can also serve as a mirror so kids can watch themselves brush, watch favorite cartoon characters and superheroes appear on screen as they brush their teeth, and do other fun stuff designed to make brushing so much fun for today’s generation of kids.
While regular toothbrushing is incredibly important, it represents just part of your child’s overall dental health care.
On top of brushing, you should also make flossing a regular part of your child’s oral care routine.
Most importantly, your child will need to get used to twice-a-year visits to a trusted child-friendly dental practice to ensure a lifetime of excellent oral health.
What are you biggest struggles with getting your kid(s) to brush their teeth? What has helped you? Which of these tips are you going to try?
About the Author
Dr. Megan Peterson Boyle is the lead cosmetic dentist with Dental Studio 101 in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is focused on providing anxiety-free cosmetic dentistry services including invisalign, dental implants, dental crowns and cosmetic fillings. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her friends and family.