Brushing teeth can quickly become a frustrating chore to kids, but it is a very important habit for them to develop early. Arguing with kids is often pointless and gone are the days when kids listen to the simple “because I said so”. Worry not for there are still a few methods that are tried and true, which should get you and your young ones back on track in maintaining good oral health.
When and How to Start
Teeth cleaning should begin as soon as teeth appear which is usually around the 6-month marker for babies, without fluoride toothpaste. Once they turn 18 months (1.5 years), you can start using low-fluoride toothpaste, about a grain of rice in amount, to brush their teeth. When they’re 3 to 6-years-old, you can add a pea-sized amount. Since children should brush their teeth for two minutes, make it fun! Brush to the length of a song, like, “This is the Way We Brush Our Teeth,” and then as they get older, use a timer or an electric toothbrush, which times it for them. Be sure to have your child spit the toothpaste out after brushing and avoid rinsing out their mouth afterwards. Cleaning of both the teeth and gums should happen twice a day.
As your children grow and have to brush their teeth themselves, you’ll need a few encouraging methods.
1. Buy them a nice, new toothbrush.
While this may seem like such a trivial pursuit, trust that it is effective. The simple novelty of getting new toothbrushes ignites excitement for having a new possession the same way a child prefers getting new toys over their old ones. This will encourage enthusiasm when it’s time to brush teeth.
2. Let them pick the toothpaste flavor.
If your child complains about the taste of the toothpaste, try a different one. It is worth the task of sorting through a handful of flavors and having them test to see which they like as you’re bound to strike a match at some point. Keep in mind, different brands may have the same flavor names but often times they still taste different, so your options are greater than you know. If however, you don’t find an “acceptable” flavor, just go without. It is better to have them brush without toothpaste for a while, than to have them not brush their teeth at all.
3. Brush as a family.
If they feel that they are alone in having to complete the task of brushing their teeth, it is more likely to present as a punishment to them than what it really is – basic hygiene. Brush your teeth at the same time to simulate a somewhat unorthodox form of bonding. But if they have an older sibling that they love to imitate, then you’ve basically struck gold. Have them brush together and then things should go smoothly.
You can also incorporate brushing teeth during games like when you play with dolls and action-figures together, as this shows the child that brushing teeth is something that everyone does.
4. Implement a reward system.
Threatening gum disease or cavities hold no power over a child. Fun is more likely to motivate them than any sort of negative consequence, like “bad hygiene”. This method works best when personalized for your child.
Try using a sticker chart, where you award them a sticker after every time they brush their teeth and once they accumulate a certain number of stickers, they win a toy or even an extra amount of media time.
5. Routine reward.
This can be tied in with the above suggestion, but creating an exciting routine encourages them to stick to the part of the routine that includes brushing their teeth.
For example, if you schedule their TV time, or video-game time, right after brushing their teeth every night, then they will start to look forward to it because of the fun that comes soon after. Of course, this only works if you reinforce that the fun time is conditional and that without brushing, it doesn’t happen.
Remember, the key is patience as they are more likely to brush their teeth if it is tied to positive feelings rather than negative ones.
If you’d like to go over specifics in person, our office is located in Glen Carbon, IL. Contact us to schedule an appointment!