For many parents, teaching kids to brush their teeth is a twice-daily battle. But as experts point out, it’s a fight worth having. Studies tell us your child’s oral health will affect their whole body. Although dental caries are largely preventable, they remain the most common chronic disease of children aged 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 19 years. Tooth decay is four times more common than asthma among adolescents aged 14 to 17 years.
Poor oral hygiene has been linked to everything from speech delays to dental pain and infections to diabetes. These are consequences no parent wants for their child. Here are some tried and proven methods that you can apply to get your children to start brushing their teeth without fuss!
1. Start the Brushing Early
It’s never too early to make brushing and flossing a part of their morning and nightly routines. In fact, dentists recommend starting dental care even before your child’s first tooth arrives. During a child’s infancy, you can wipe down their gums nightly with a soft, damp cloth. Once teeth begin to appear (typically around the 6 month period), switch to a tooth brush. When teeth begin touching (usually around age 2 or 3), they may begin flossing.
Schedule a visit to the dentist by the first birthday, regardless of how many teeth they have or even earlier if teeth begin to appear. Beginning early will allow your children to establish a routine of hygiene, and soon it will become second nature. It will also help to prevent many future issues. Check out this site for when a child should begin brushing on their own.
2. Set a good example with brushing
When it comes to teaching good dental hygiene, practice what you preach. As with most areas of learning, you the parent are the child’s first and most important teacher. Hence, you must lead by example. So when you brush your own teeth, try to make it known to your young one what you’re doing. It’s even better if you do it at the same time. For added fun, pretend to be a mirror the next time you and your kid brush together, and encourage them to copy your every move.
Turn brushing your teeth into a game
Whether you’re 7 years old or 77, dentists recommend brushing teeth twice a day, for 2-3 minutes at a time. Try one of these creative games to help them meet the two-minute mark:
- Set a timer. Overturn an egg timer filled with colourful sand, and challenge them to keep brushing until all the sand has reached the bottom.
- Alternatively, you can buy your child a toothbrush that blinks or plays music for two minutes. There are special toothbrushes on their market with fun themes perfect for any kids. These range from Frozen to superheroes so you are sure to find one most suitable that your child will love.
- Play their favourite song. The free app Brush DJ plays tunes in your library for two minutes and – bonus – lets you set reminders to brush twice a day, floss, use a mouthwash, and visit the dentist.
- Most songs play for 2-3 minutes so you can play your child’s favourite song on YouTube or Spotify and brush together until the song ends. Dance as you go!
- Offer incentives. What kid doesn’t want to stay up a few minutes later at bedtime or be in charge of choosing the next movie for family night? Consider offering a simple reward or creating a rewards chart to encourage your little one to brush their pearly. Don’t forget to praise them afterward for their amazing technique or super sparkly teeth.
Tell a Story
One mother told her children there were animals hiding in their teeth. The second they heard this, the kids popped their mouths wide open. Now, the children choose which animal to go after each night, and it darts all over the teeth and tongue while mum or dad chase it with a toothbrush. At the end, she hands the brush to each child and tells them to finish the chase. “They laugh and they giggle — isn’t that just what we want with everything?” she says.
In fact, experts say using something relatable, like a story, is a great way to get reluctant brushers to participate. You can also try reading an age-appropriate book about taking care of your teeth or letting your child practice brushing their stuffed animal’s teeth.
Choose the right tools
Brushing and flossing can be difficult for little hands. You can opt for age-appropriate tools, such as toddler toothbrushes, flossers without sharp edges, and electric toothbrushes, which experts say mimic little circles for accurate brushing. Tip: If your child is hesitant to try one, let them feel the movement of the whirring bristles on the palm of their hand before starting. Also let your child pick out their favourite toothbrush and favourite flavour of toothpaste.
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