Sometimes, it can be frustrating to be a parent. It’s the end of the day, your kids are tired and it’s time to get ready for bed. But when you tell them it’s time to brush their teeth, they clamp their jaws shut and shake their heads with that look that clearly says, "No way!"
Don't despair. Whether your child is a wriggler, a screamer, or a stubborn I-will-not-brush-my-teeth-er, there are some time-proven ways to get your child to open up, brush their teeth and let you check them.
One piece of advice: Make it fun. Sing songs. Make up silly games. Call brushing 'getting the sugar bugs out.' Tell your children, 'Oh! I see a sugar bug right there! Let’s get it!' That usually gets kids laughing and excited about brushing their teeth.
Another way to encourage children to brush is to lead by example. Keep your adult toothbrush in the kids’ bathroom so you can brush and floss at the same time as your children. That way, you’re teaching good habits.
"It’s very important kids learn to brush their own teeth," said Kim Runyon, a Regional Hygiene Administrator for Coast Dental in Florida. "Give young children a toothbrush and let them play with it, even without toothpaste. Then make sure you brush their teeth correctly afterward. You should supervise your children's brushing until they’re at least 8 or 9."
If your child needs help, stand behind the child and reach around and brush her teeth for her so she can see what you're doing in the mirror. If your child is Mr. Independent and refuses to let you brush his teeth, add a plaque-disclosing mouth rinse. That will color the areas that the child missed and then you can have him brush those areas. You can get a rinse from your dentist or at many grocery stores and drug stores.
We asked our followers on our Coast Dental Facebook page and Twitter page for their ideas. One said after her daughter is done brushing, she tells her the "mommy dentist" needs to inspect her teeth. The mom will compliment her 3-year-old's efforts by saying, "You did an excellent job cleaning the back of your teeth," or “Good job scrubbing your tongue. Your breath smells so fresh!"
Another mom says the key to success for her kids was letting them pick out their own toothbrushes and toothpastes featuring cartoon characters they liked. Several parents sing silly songs to keep their kids brushing for two minutes, and one mom even sets a timer so the kids know exactly how long to brush. At the end of the week, she'll give a prize for brushing correctly. Another parent recommends using a sticker chart.
Don't forget the floss. As soon as two baby teeth touch each other, you need to floss between them or bacteria and food can create cavities. You can buy child-sized flossers at many supermarkets. It's important that you supervise the flossing, though, and if you see any bleeding or puffiness around the gums, make an appointment to bring your child to the dentist to make sure he or she doesn’t have gingivitis or another stage of gum disease.
Kids, just like adults, should floss once a day and brush twice a day. However, if your child eats breakfast at school and doesn't have time to brush before class, encourage the child to stop by the water fountain and swish some water to rinse away food debris. Packing apples, carrots or celery in your kids' lunchboxes will also help; these crunchy fruits and vegetables help keep the teeth clean. Sugar-free gum is another option. It will help generate saliva to wash away bacteria, although you may need to check with the school to confirm chewing gum is allowed on campus.
If all else fails, then follow the advice of this mother who wrote on our Facebook page. "My teen didn’t want to brush anymore so my awesome mom pulled her denture out and said you wanna look like this? (My daughter) ran so fast for her InteliSonic, I wish I had recorded it."
No matter how you get the message across, the important thing is to instill great oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime!
Written by: Beth Gaddis
Reviewed by: Diaa Ghabbour, DMD
Reviewed by: Chuck Laun, DDS