How to get kids to brush their teeth
Making oral health fun for kids
Like many parents, I’ve felt the pain that can come with teeth-brushing. For many kids it’s a drag, perhaps even something they dread morning and night, causing a performance worthy of a Broadway drama. As a parent, it can be hard to get through the twice-daily ordeal with the constant nagging anthem of “have you brushed for two-minutes? Show me”. The ultimate goal for us is to just have our kids proactively look to do it, and do it well.
Instilling positive oral care habits in children is an important lesson they should learn at a young age. Not only will it set them up with the most valuable tool to prevent oral problems, but they will also have the added bonus of a beautiful smile and confidence to go with it. Dental care doesn’t have to be boring – actually, it can be quite fun.
Read on to learn how you can channel your child’s Broadway talent into a positive, proactive oral care.
How to make brushing teeth fun for kids
When my own children were younger, I went through the same teeth-brushing ordeal that all parents go through. Just being a dentist did not make my children immune to the “I don’t want to brush my teeth” phase of life. So, I had to find creative ways to encourage them and make it a fun part of our day.
We calibrated a playlist of our kids’ favourite songs, turning brushing time into a brushing dance party that happened every night before bed, and every morning as a positive fun way to start the day strong. Like singing into the hairbrush, but with a toothbrush instead. From Disney’s most famous tunes, Pepper Pig's theme song, through to The Wiggle’s greatest hits, our bathroom was like a night club for children. It became something the kids actually looked forward too.
You can also create imaginary scenarios where your kid gets to be the hero. “Brush your teeth to save Queen Elsa from Hans!”, “The Hulk is mad!! To calm him down, brush your teeth!”. When kids achieve something and become a hero, it makes them feel satisfied with brushing their teeth, as well as having fun in the process.
Make brushing a family event
We found that when we started to all do it together, as a family, our kids naturally wanted to be a part of it too. It no longer became a drag for both us and the kids, it was just something that we all had to do, twice a day, every day. It was just like eating dinner at the table as a family – it was something that happened and had to be done every day - no exceptions.
Bring variety to Brushing
Toothbrushes can be purchased in all shapes, sizes, and themes based on favourite Disney and Marvel characters. We found that allowing our children a variety of toothbrushes to choose from kept it interesting for them. They could also choose from different kinds of toothpaste which varied from flavour to their favourite character even being on the tube.
Variety is the spice of life, so giving them options helped them feel like it was their own decision to brush their teeth as they were making all the choices about what went into their own mouth. It helped them to have a sense of responsibility and begin to make conscious decisions about their own oral care.
Should kids have an electric toothbrush?
Using a manual toothbrush actually requires a fair amount of dexterity. Electric toothbrushes take some of the manual labour and coordination out of tooth brushing, which means that kids can focus on brushing thoroughly and reaching all the nooks and crannies that they need to in order to brush well. Electric toothbrushes are great for kids over 3, provided they use a soft-bristled head.
How to make kids comfortable with Dentists
It's no news that dental care plays an important role in health and appearance, both in childhood and throughout life. Having the right perspective about going to the dentist at a young age is also vital.
Examine your own attitude about the dentist
As parents, our own habits and fears rub off onto our children. If you had a scary dental experience as a child and are projecting that onto your child, they can associate their teeth (and your dentist) with fear. Ensuring that they always experience positive views of looking after their teeth and going to the dentist is so important so that they start out from an early age without the fear of expecting pain.
If you are nervous about visiting your dentist, talk to us. Explain to our team what your fears are, and we’ll do whatever we can to put them to rest during your next visit.
Pick a kid-friendly dentist
Choosing a dentist who can offer a kid-friendly experience right from the start of your child's journey of walking (or being carried) into the waiting room through to their experience in the dental chair is vital. Particular dentists have further training in paediatric dental care and are naturally passionate about going the extra mile for our young ones.
Getting my children to like brushing their teeth and doing it on their own wasn’t something that just happened overnight. Like all good things, it took time, repetition, failures, and successes but we got there in the end. It set them up with good habits and an understanding of the importance of oral care for life.