For adults, taking two minutes to brush teeth is a welcome chance to daydream. To a child, it’s an eternity. No amount of reminders from the family dentist will convince that the best dental care available comes from a toothbrush and a squirt of toothpaste- children are still going to consider it a chore.
This is where a little imagination comes into play. There is no reason tooth-brushing can become part of kids’ daily routines without dread and boredom.
Once kids see that brushing isn’t so bad, parents can sigh in relief because they’ll know they’ve helped to avoid big dental bills down the road. Even for those with no dental insurance, lining up a discount dental plan will help take the sting out of the cost of procedures when and if they are needed.
Make it Entertaining
For starters, bring an iPod into the bathroom during the morning and night to make music part of the brushing routine. Those two minutes will go by in a flash when youngsters are listening to their favorite entertainers. Whether it’s Elmo on a Sesame Street CD for the younger set or Justin Bieber for the family tweens, listening to music will help turn tooth-brushing into an activity that goes by quickly and painlessly. Change the music selection each day so your child doesn’t get bored.
There are toothbrushes with flashing lights, neon colors and characters that range from popular action heroes to Hello Kitty. In short, there’s something for everyone. Make sure the bristles are soft as recommended by family dentists to prevent erosion of tooth enamel.
When it comes to toothpaste, there’s just as much variety. Children can have grape, bubblegum or berry flavors without compromising on dental effectiveness. Make sure fluoride is an ingredient though- countless studies have shown it eliminates bacteria that can develop around gums as well as plaque build-up on teeth.
Set the Routine
Very young children will need an adult to monitor their regimen so it doesn’t slide into a cursory swab across the inside of the mouth and little else. Teach them to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush in a circular movement that offers the best coverage.
Teach them to break the routine into steps. First brush the outside of the teeth, then work the brush along the inside. Follow that with a quick brush on the tongue, then the top surfaces where we chew and between teeth. Count the steps as they go and children will know when they are half-way and nearly done. For older kids, the regimen will become ingrained.
Until children are old enough to go through their bathroom routines on their own, it doesn’t hurt to set up a time when an adult can brush with them in the morning before school or at night before bedtime.
Reward Dental Hygiene
Children don’t understand that developing steady tooth brushing habits early will lead to good dental hygiene later in their lives. What they do understand are rewards. Having tooth-brushing sessions checked off twice daily on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly chart will boost the child’s confidence with the added bonus of a small reward at the end.
It can be as simple as an hour more of TV or video games or a small outing. But in the long run, setting a small system to get kids into a regular regimen of dental care will pay off in the biggest reward of all – sound, healthy teeth.
What ways do you use to make brushing fun for the kids? Let us know in your comments below!