If you have kids, then you are probably aware that most of the time it is their world and you are just living in it. And you also know that – apart from afternoon nap time – morning routine and bedtime routine are the most chaotic parts of the day. But routines are important for kids in a lot of ways, and one of the most important things you can teach your kids to maintain their oral and overall health is how to brush their teeth.
However, if you have kids, you also know it can be tricky to get them to brush correctly and as often as needed, especially if your toddler’s got a good “Yeah, I brushed” poker face. But like everything kids don’t want to do, there are hacks for outsmarting your little ones to get them to do what’s best for them in the end, anyway. Brushing is no different.
Here are 5 tips to make brushing less like a chore, and help your kids develop healthy oral hygiene habits:
1. Start a solid brushing routine early.
Starting as early as when your child gets their first tooth is a way to begin their good oral health journey. The first teeth usually start to emerge around 6 months old, and at this point you can use a soft toothbrush and water to gently brush their gums and emerging teeth.
Obviously, they won’t be able to do brush for themselves quite yet, but you doing it for them will help in an important way; it’ll get them used to the feeling of having their teeth brushed, which will make it easier down the road to not be freaked out by the feeling. In fact, starting at 6 months old means that by the time your kid is even aware of their oral care routine, they’ll feel like it’s already been a part of their entire life.
2. Set a good example with your own oral health.
When children are young, they look up to their parents and those around them to help shape their habits. If you do not consistently brush your own teeth, can you expect them to? Properly brushing your teeth in front of them can help them learn how, and also shows that it’s something they should want to do. Kids are likely to want to imitate you and learn by example.
You can even start letting them brush their teeth “on their own” with you before they have the dexterity to do it well. Then, just tell them there’s a bit more to do and finish the brushing job for them. That way they feel like they’re in charge of their oral care routine early on, but you can still get in there to ensure their teeth are brushed properly.
3. Make their toothbrush and toothpaste fun.
If a child likes the way their toothbrush and toothpaste look, they are more likely to be excited to use them. Whether they are interested in cars, princesses, or fun cotton candy-flavored toothpaste, they will want to brush their teeth more with personalized items. There are plenty of fun options available that are up to the American Dental Association’s standards, so take them to the store with you and pick something that catches their eye.
This is also a place you can introduce sustainability and add some fun to their toothpaste experience. Several companies now make zero-waste toothpaste. They’re little capsules that burst in your mouth when you bite down on them, and they even come in kid-friendly flavors like cinnamon and bubblegum. Plus, they’re natural – some are even organic – so are safe for kids who are sensitive to some of the stuff in standard toothpaste.
4. Use a reward system – it’s basically foolproof.
A reward system can be a great way to incentivize your child into brushing their teeth, especially when they are young. Some kids have that stubborn streak, and negotiations begin the moment they learn the word “No”.
You can use whatever your child loves most. We recommend using a chart that has spaces for morning and evening brushing every day. Your child gets a sticker for every successful brushing episode – one that doesn’t include whining and tantrums – and when they get to a certain amount of stickers, they get to go pick out a little toy or maybe get some extra TV time that night.
You don’t have to do this forever, however, it is a helpful way to get your child into the habit of brushing their teeth. Importantly – only use positive reinforcement to instill good brushing habits. That means, don’t use a time when they didn’t cooperate to punish them (i.e. time in their room or taking TV away). You don’t want them to have any negative associations around brushing.
5. Make brushing fun!
Another way to increase your child’s fondness for brushing is by making it a fun experience for them. Nowadays, there are many options that can make brushing your teeth more fun. Apps, music, videos, and games are all resources that can encourage your child to brush for a full two minutes every time.
Have more than one kid? Make it a friendly competition! Have them flash those tiny-toothed smiles at you after everyone’s done brushing their teeth and pick who did best that day. Or pick everybody! Winner(s) get an extra sticker on the brushing chart, or whatever little prize you deem best.
Early prevention is key when it comes to instilling good oral care habits that keep your child’s teeth healthy and white. Following these 5 tips can help your child become a tooth-brushing master in no time! Not to mention make your morning and bedtime routines a little easier. Try out these tips and let us know how they work for you and your little ones.