By: Kenny Hackett
Dentists recommend brushing for at least two minutes, twice a day. As any parent knows, getting a child to brush their teeth can quickly become a struggle. By identifying what they don’t like and adding some creativity, you can conquer their reluctance, and even have fun doing it. Those two minutes, twice a day will go a long way toward a lifetime of good oral hygiene and healthy teeth and gums. Proper oral care is essential, especially if a child requires any orthodontics.
Parents should wipe a baby’s mouths with a soft cloth, even before their first teeth come in. Once your child’s teeth have appeared you will need to brush for them for a few years until they have the manual dexterity to do so alone. Dentist visits should begin at approximately age two. The following tips will help you get your child to brush their teeth:
Use the Proper Tools
Most dentists suggest choosing toothpaste and toothbrushes featuring the ADA seal of approval; the fun part is letting your children choose their own. Toothbrushes are available in a variety of their favorite characters and colors. Toothpaste tubes for kids also feature cartoon characters, and the toothpaste itself can feature different flavors or sparkles. Don’t forget to check out the electric toothbrushes designed specifically for children.
You can begin flossing your child’s teeth at about two or three years old. Oral picks can help make this task easier in their smaller mouths. Most children won’t be able to floss alone until they are at least school age. While younger children may not want or need to use mouthwash, older ones typically do.
Instilling these brushing habits early in a child’s life is essential, especially if your child requires orthodontics. The dentist will provide special instructions for oral care and cleaning. Poor oral hygiene can influence a person’s overall health and lead to secondary problems, including diabetes.
You might put an inch of toothpaste on your brush, but kids don’t need that much. Dentists recommend just a smear, about the size of a grain of rice, for younger children, and pea-sized for those over three.
Use the Right Method
Teach children to brush all surfaces of their teeth, front, back, and chewing surfaces. Help them hold the toothbrush up and down and spend as much time on the backs as on the front. Plaque build-up behind the teeth and around orthodontic appliances can cause problems and gum disease. Show them how to spit the toothpaste out, and how to rinse their mouths and toothbrushes when they are finished. Just watching themselves in the mirror, laughing at their faces while they brush, can easily entertain kids for the full two minutes.
Tips to Make Brushing Fun
You are prepared and ready to go. Now, all that is left is learning how to make this process fun so your child will want to brush their teeth, not once, but twice a day. For two minutes at a time!
Make it family brushing time. Set a timer and have everyone go into the bathroom together and start brushing. Make faces at each other in the mirror. Relax, kids are going to miss spots, but they will get them next time. Have everyone start on one side or area of the mouth, brush and move onto the next.
Your oral hygiene time can be a great learning experience for children who are learning to brush their teeth. Let them watch while you brush, and explain to them what you are doing and why. Show them pictures of what someone’s mouth looks like when they don’t receive regular oral care. Once you are finished brushing your teeth help them do their own!
Start your child’s bedtime story in the bathroom in the evening while they are brushing.
Offer your child incentives. Candy is probably not the best incentive for brushing their teeth. Gold stars, an extra five minutes of story time, a few minutes of play time, or getting to choose a movie once a week are a few ideas that will encourage your child.
Let your child choose a brushing app. These apps are designed to keep kids motivated and occupied for the length of time that the dentist recommends.
Younger children often resist brushing their teeth before breakfast. If time is not of the essence, allow them to wait, as long as they spend the full two minutes brushing after they have finished.
Use positive reinforcement regarding your child’s trips to the dentist, rather than threatening them with dire consequences if they don’t brush.
Healthy oral habits will become routine as your child grows. Your child’s oral hygiene habits become more important as children get older, especially if they require orthodontics. Properly caring for teeth while wearing braces and retainers is extremely important to prevent decay. At this stage, children are often old enough to want to take special care with their appearances but may need more frequent trips to the dentist for cleaning and adjustments.