Sweeping away the “sugar bugs.” Playing “beat the timer.” Making funny faces. These are just some of the silly but effective ways my husband and I got our two daughters excited about taking care of their teeth. Our hard work has paid off: now, the girls are happy to brush twice a day and show off their pearly whites to the dentist.
For many parents, teaching kids good dental hygiene is a twice-daily battle. But as experts point out, it’s a fight worth having. Though it’s largely preventable, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease among children aged 6-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to everything from speech delays to dental pain and infections to diabetes.
We at Growing Smiles in Anna tx know that oral health is closely linked to overall health, If we make sure children receive proper dental education and care early on, it will help them to be healthy throughout their lives.
Here are some ways to make brushing and flossing a fun — and regular — part of your child’s daily routine.
Choose kid-flavored toothpaste
Many people do not understand that adult toothpaste is not the ideal option for young children simply because it is not appealing.
Additionally, consider recommending that parents buy a few different flavors of toothpaste, for example, strawberry, bubblegum, and watermelon. Children feel empowered when they have options and the ability to make their own decisions. Remind parents that spending a few extra dollars on a variety of children’s toothpaste is a minimal expense when compared to the alternative expense of fillings.
Start oral hygiene early.
It’s never too early to make brushing and flossing a part of their morning and nightly routines. Dentists recommend starting dental care even before your child’s first tooth arrives. During infancy, wipe down their gums nightly with a soft, damp cloth. Switch to a toothbrush when their teeth come in (usually around 6 months of age), and floss once teeth start touching (typically around age 2 or 3). Schedule a visit to the dentist by the first birthday, regardless of how many teeth they have.
Purchase soft or extra-soft children’s toothbrushes
Encourage parents to purchase soft or extra-soft toothbrushes for their children. Many stores have a limited selection, so you could also suggest that they go online to find different options. Brushing can be painful for children because of their growing jaws, sensitive gums, and erupting teeth. Reducing the “ouch” factor of brushing by recommending soft toothbrushes will help kids feel more at ease about the brushing process.
Another easy adjustment that can be made is to lighten the lateral pressure that children and/or parents use when they are brushing. Even the softest bristles can feel like needles if they are pressed up against the gums too hard. Remember that plaque is a biofilm and it does not take much to remove it. Tell parents to let the bristles do the work. Keeping kids comfortable will help them be more cooperative.
Set a good example.
When it comes to teaching good dental hygiene, practice what you preach. “A child emulates whatever a parent is doing,” explains the doctors at Growing Smiles in Anna tx “So if your child regularly sees you flossing, she’s more likely to floss.” 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.
Allow the child to choose his/her toothbrush
Allowing children to choose which toothbrush they want is another excellent way to get kids more enthusiastic about brushing. Pediatric toothbrushes are intentionally designed to have thicker handles for easier grasping, smaller heads for more comfortable access, and they have bright colors and recognizable characters. This makes the toothbrush look more appealing. Help skeptical parents see that while these brushes are maybe a little more expensive, their appeal factor is worth the investment. Allowing little ones to choose between two or three options gives them a sense of ownership and will hopefully help them feel more enthusiastic and excited about brushing.
Turn toothbrushing into a game.
Whether you’re 6 or 66, dentists recommend brushing teeth twice a day, for two minutes at a time. That’s because studies show that the longer you brush, the more plaque you remove, says Conicella. Try one of these creative games to help them meet the two-minute mark:
- Brush during a commercial break. During each 30-second commercial, have your child brush a quadrant of their mouth. By the time they’re done, Kennerly says, their show is back on. Just remember to turn off the TV at least a half-hour before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep.
- Set a timer. Overturn an egg timer filled with colorful sand, and challenge them to keep brushing until all the sand has reached the bottom. Or buy your child a toothbrush that blinks or plays music for two minutes.
- Play their favorite 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.
- 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 whites for two minutes. Don’t forget to praise them afterward for their amazing technique or super sparkly teeth.
Find a way to make it fun
Kids love games and, depending on their age, they are often enthusiastic about doing activities where they can bond with others—especially their parents. Unfortunately, children associate toothbrushing with bedtime. And we all know how most kids feel about bedtime.
Making it fun can be difficult. What works like a charm one day can be an epic fail the next day. But here are a few fun suggestions that may be helpful to parents.
- Brush their teeth before they get in the bath or change into their pj’s to try to avoid the negative association of toothbrushing and bedtime.
- Sit on the ground and brush your teeth with them. Little games like “Simon Says” or “Copy Cat” could catch the child’s interest.
- Turn on their favorite song for them to dance to while they are brushing.
Tell a story.
It used to be a fight for Callie Rae McCarthy to get her 2- and 4-year-olds to brush. But when the Bloomfield, N.J., mom said animals were hiding in their teeth, 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 Callie Rae or her husband chases it with a toothbrush. In 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.
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.
After giving parents each of the four suggestions, make sure to encourage them. Parents and caregivers face many challenges and sometimes the battle of helping children brush their teeth feels too overwhelming to handle. Encourage them to keep their chin up and to keep trying because “tooth brushing habits which are learned during early years of life [are] deeply ingrained in the child’s mind and this may [lead] to the adoption of good oral hygiene methods in later life.”
We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. Growing Smiles is a pediatric dentist in Anna, Richardson, Plano, Garland, Murphy we have Pediatric Services in Texas: Early Childhood Care, Preventive Care, General Treatments, Sedation Dentistry, Special Needs Dentistry, Emergency Service and Orthodontic (Braces & Invisalign) For more information call us to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.