As a parent, you have so many things you need to teach your child. One of the most important parts of parenting is teaching your children from a young age healthy habits that stay with them for life. Although getting kids to brush their teeth can be a struggle, it’s important to help them develop good oral health habits from a young age. They can enjoy excellent dental oral health using a few basic rules to avoid common childhood dental issues. Since February is Children’s Dental Health Month, here we offer ideas to help your kids develop healthy oral hygiene habits with fun ways to get kids to brush their teeth.
One Of The Best Ways To Get Kids To Brush Their Teeth? Start Early!
It might be surprising to learn that good oral health habits start at birth. You can clean your baby’s gums after feedings using a clean piece of gauze and warm water. Once their first tooth appears, they will be used to the process, preparing them for the next step: Brushing.
Brush Their First Tooth
Once the first tooth appears, you can use a finger toothbrush or baby toothbrush and approved fluoride toothpaste for children to brush their baby teeth gently. This teaches your baby about brushing, so it becomes part of their daily routine. Laugh, sing, and talk to your baby, or even create your own little brushing song to set them at ease. This further prepares them for the next step of letting them brush on their own. Ask your dentist about “training toothpaste” that doesn’t contain fluoride, as there’s no realistic way to avoid smaller children swallowing toothpaste.
Brush With Them
From the early brushing stages, you should also brush with your child. You can show them how you brush your teeth to get them interested in the idea while also showing them that brushing is fun. Show them how you do it, so they get the idea and are prepared to follow suit once they are old enough. Then give them a nice bright smile to show off your healthy teeth.
Let Kids Take The Lead
Once your child is old enough, let them take over the toothbrushing process. Have them remind you to brush, how to brush, and anything else they might like to do during the toothbrushing process. This teaches them independence and makes them feel more in control. Not all kids will prefer this approach, but many kids just get tired of being told what to do. If they are the ones doing the telling, they might look forward to toothbrushing.
Doing It “Their” Way
You can also allow them to do it “their” way to a certain extent, whether they prefer to put the toothpaste on their own toothbrush, want to use a special glass or cup to rinse, or want to use a certain stool or chair so they can reach the sink. All of these “individualized” steps encourage them to become their own little brushing machine. Continue to give brushing tips, but don’t get too upset when they inevitably drop a cup, spill water, or let a massive glob of toothpaste land in the sink. It’s all part of the learning process.
Make Brushing A Family Affair
Once your child is old enough to handle the toothbrush, make brushing a family affair. Have everyone brush together whenever possible and continue singing your brushing song. You can also call out each step of the brushing process, such as ‘Front teeth! Back teeth!’ so they can follow your lead. Do this in a fun way, not like a drill sergeant! They might prefer to call out the steps themselves, which is even better.
Become A Brushing Guinea Pig
If you’re comfortable with the idea, allow your child to practice brushing your teeth as one of the fun ways to teach brushing teeth. Use a child-size toothbrush, so it becomes more familiar to them. They can also learn how to put a tiny amount of toothpaste on the brush. Stick to your front teeth so you don’t have discomfort if they get overly enthusiastic.
Brush Their Toy’s Teeth
If the idea of becoming a toothbrushing guinea pig isn’t appealing to you, have them practice on their favourite dolls or toys or stuffed animals. In this case, you wouldn’t use toothpaste but can use an empty tube for them to pretend they are putting toothpaste on the brush. They can go through the motions, and then you can have them do their own teeth next.
Let Them Choose Their Own Toothbrush
Take a trip to the store where they can buy their own toothbrush to keep them interested in the “equipment”. Having their own toothbrush feels more grown up, and it is also fun to choose a new colour or character. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months. You can even have an assortment of toothbrushes available to them so they can choose the brush they want each day.
“Taste Test” Different Toothpastes
Often it is the taste of toothpaste children don’t like. Have a toothpaste taste test allowing them to try different toothpaste “flavours” so they find one they will look forward to using because it’s “yummy.”
Have A Toothbrushing Story
Explain why they have to brush their teeth with a good-against-evil story. For example, kids who don’t brush their teeth might understand why it’s important if they think of sugar and bacteria as “monsters” that don’t like shiny white teeth. The only way to stop the monster is to brush your teeth like a superhero to keep them shiny and clean, with toothpaste acting as a shield.
Introduce The Tooth Fairy
Just like some families use Santa Claus to encourage good behaviour, you can introduce the Tooth Fairy to kids to encourage them to brush. Knowing that the Tooth Fairy only collects healthy, clean teeth can be an incentive to keep up with good brushing habits.
Play Their Favourite Song
Let your child choose their favourite song as their “toothbrushing song.” Play it on repeat for two minutes to make brushing more fun. This also acts as a timer, so they know when they’ve brushed long enough. You can also dance to the music while they brush to create a toothbrushing dance party.
Use A Sticker System
If, for some reason, your child is particularly reluctant to brush, consider using a sticker system as a reward. This is not a good way to start your brushing sessions, but if all else fails, rewards often pay off. They can stick magnets or stickers to a calendar board to show they’ve brushed that day, and at the end of the week or month, you can provide a small reward.
Another good idea is to arrange for a chair ride at the dentist. This will introduce them to the dental office, and your hygienist can also introduce your kids to proper brushing techniques. Most dentists also have a “treasure chest” with toothbrushes, toothpaste or little prizes like stickers kids get at their visits. All of these little things add up to positive views about good oral hygiene.