Being a parent is awesome. But for those trying to teach their children good oral hygiene habits, the struggle is real. It can be a trying time, but it’s one of those necessary skills that your child will take with him or her into adulthood.
Fortunately, there is a grab bag of ideas to help even the most frustrated, exhausted parent break through the struggle. The following tips help make getting your kids to brush more fun and stress-free for everyone!
Set a Toothbrushing Routine - When your child is running late for school or exhausted after a long day of activities, you may be tempted to let brushing slide. But this just gives kids the impression that brushing is optional and soon any excuse not to brush sounds acceptable. Make a strict must-brush policy and stick to it.
Let Your Child Pick Their Own Brush and Toothpaste – Children’s toothbrushes have come a long way since you were young. Many light up, play songs, and have fun, popular characters from TV shows and cartoons. Toothpaste for children has a milder flavor than the standard mint of adult pastes. Allow your child to pick out their favorite brush and child-specific toothpaste in a fun flavor like bubble gum or fruity mint.
Make Brushing Time Fun – The American Dental Association recommends brushing for two minutes, twice a day. Why not make it fun by putting on your child’s favorite song and dancing? You might find they brush longer so they can finish the song!
Reward Your Child – On the days your child beelines for the bathroom without a struggle, offer up a sticker, a high-five, or other positive encouragement that lets them know you notice their good behavior.
Lead by Example – Children are excellent mimics, and they want to do everything you or an older sibling does. Make it a point to tell your child that you are going to brush your teeth before work or better yet, brush your teeth while your child brushes theirs so they can see you. Invite your older children to do the same. Before bed, pile everyone in the bathroom and brush as a family for a few minutes of family bonding time.
Ask Their Dentist for Help – Sometimes children, especially toddlers, defy their parents in a struggle for independence. If you are struggling with getting your child to brush, consider reaching out for help. Bring along your child’s toothbrush and ask their hygienist or dentist to help show them the right way to brush. Most dentists have a disclosing liquid or chewable tablet that show areas of missed plaque. After your child brushes their teeth, they will rinse with or chew the tablet and then look for areas of pink. This can be surprising to children and can encourage better brushing habits.
No matter how frustrating it can be, never yell, threaten or hold your child down to brush their teeth if they aren’t compliant about brushing. Creating a negative association with oral hygiene can push your child in the other direction and make them avoid brushing altogether. Try to remain calm and be patient. It might take a while, but it will happen. Encouraging your child and sticking with a solid routine now is the key to building a lifetime of good hygiene habits.