It’s that time of year when dentists, oral health practitioners, and public health advocates create awareness for National Children’s Dental Health Month. Through the years, getting Big B to brush his teeth has been an adventure. There were times when it was easy, almost effortless. Then there were times when, well, for a lack of a better phrase, it was like pulling teeth. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who struggles with this issue of getting my kids to brush. So what’s a parent to do? Below are some techniques that have worked for us to encourage kids to brush their teeth.
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Start early, start a routine
I know that maintaining dental health is a lifelong commitment. That is why I decided to start teaching the kids of it’s importance early on. I purchased a finger toothbrush and used it with Big B when he had just 2 front teeth. Of course, he had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t matter. I brushed his teeth in the morning and at night. Eventually, it became part of his routine. Like with most activities, establishing a routine is a way to get kids to participate, even the youngest of kids.
Use what motivates your kids
One thing that gets Big B excited about dental health is a new toothbrush. A few weeks ago I saw Star Wars toothbrushes at CVS. I immediately bought one for each kid. These brushes are cool. They are somewhat shaped like light sabers and light up with a push of a button. After Big B saw what I had bought, he couldn’t wait to brush his teeth that night. As he is really interested in Star Wars, the novelty has still not worn off. And I am relieved. Whether your kids are into princesses, Angry Birds, the latest cartoon character or pop star, there are toothbrushes out there that flash and even sing that may excite your kids to brush their teeth.
Let them make choices
We were running out of toothpaste so I asked Big B what flavor he wanted to try next. We have tried, and love, two brands of fluoride-free toothpastes for kids, Jack n’ Jill and Dr. Branam. As soon as his strawberry flavored toothpaste arrived, he was eager to brush. By giving kids choices, they get involved in the process and are more likely to be motivated, engaged, and follow through with the activity.
Evolve your tactics
We have tried fact, fun, and fear to get Big B to brush. I can say that scare tactics do not work as well as the others; the consequences are not immediate enough. Tooth decay takes a while to develop, so telling kids that they will get a cavity later if they don’t brush their teeth now may not make sense to them. As a toddler, we used to tell him to sing real loud so he can open his mouth wide enough for us to brush. As he’s grown older, we’ve told him that food leaves sugar bugs and we need to get all the sugar bugs out of his teeth to keep them healthy. At different ages come different challenges, so we have to adapt. What technique worked before may not work again or may not work for other children in the family. Try different approaches and cater them to your kids. One is bound to work.
As I try to avoid nagging and being pushy, I have looked for other things that might help me with teaching the kids about good oral health. We’ve used an app to encourage kids to brush their teeth. Yes, there’s an app for that. The one we use is a timer to help the kids know just how long to brush their teeth. I’ve also shown Big B YouTube videos of how kids properly brush their teeth. For some reason, he loves those videos. He’ll watch them over and over again. As long as he’s getting something out of it, I don’t mind showing them to him occasionally. There are free and paid applications, kid-centric websites, and videos that engage kids to brush. Our kids’ generation are digital natives, so why not use technology to our advantage.
Whether buying new dental products or using technology, I am all for trying anything to encourage kids to brush their teeth. Thankfully, we have good dental genes and cavities don’t really run in our family. Well, maybe it’s also because I’m vigilant about good dental health.
How do you encourage kids to brush their teeth? Any tips to get them excited to do it?