For many parents, getting their children to brush their teeth is a twice-daily battle - but they are battles well worth having! Good oral hygiene is important at all ages, and aids young children in speech, educational and social development. Children suffering from oral pain tend to perform worse in school; a recent study revealed that children with tooth pain were 4 times more likely to have a low grade point average (below 2.8 GPA) compared to children without oral pain. Oral health problems are also a significant factor in school absences for children, and missed work for their parents.
Tooth decay, aka cavities, is the most common chronic childhood disease in school-aged children, yet it is almost entirely preventable with daily brushing and flossing! Oral health is closely linked to overall health, and teaching your child to have a strong foundation in dental health will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Here are 5 fun ways to help make brushing a regular part of your child’s daily morning and nighttime routines!
Show and Tell
You are your young child’s biggest role model, so it’s important that you set a good example by both showing how to practice good oral hygiene, and telling them why it’s important! Show by simply brushing and flossing regularly yourself where and when they will see you. Better yet, make it a family affair and spend two minutes each day and night brushing your teeth with your kids! Make sure to Tell by explaining the reasons why you brush and floss daily. (E.g.: We need to clean out all the little germs and leftovers sticking on and between our teeth, otherwise they will attack our teeth and make them hurt!)
Related to the Tell of Show and Tell above, use storytimes to encourage good oral hygiene. Make up your own silly stories, such as: “There are little creatures hiding in your teeth, let’s go after them!” Or, “You’re the only superhero that can fight off the bad guy germs in your mouth!” Or if there is a character your child can’t get enough of, many children’s shows and books have stories about brushing. Watch and read them together, and when it’s time to brush you can remind your child of the good example that character set!
Make It A Game
Make brushing twice a day for 2 minutes each a fun event! Make up a silly toothbrushing song or dance with your child, turn on your child’s favorite song and have a mini tooth brushing dance party, or check out the many brushing videos and apps available now that have 2-minute timers built in. Here’s a great list to get you started!
Reward Good Behavior
Similar to making it a game, rewarding good brushing behavior is all about associating teeth cleaning with positive things. If they brush their teeth well and without fuss, tell them they did a great job and that you’re proud of them, and/or let them pick out the bedtime story for the night. Using a reward chart can also be very helpful and interactive tool: let your child pick and place a sticker for each time they properly clean their teeth. Or, check off each time they brush their teeth, and after a set number of days without missing a single twice-daily brushing (suggested at least 10 days), treat them to a bigger, predetermined reward like a trip to the playground or zoo.
Though kids shouldn’t be led to think there’s a choice in their tooth cleaning routine (because chances are they’ll make the choice not to do it!), it’s great to give them a choice in picking out their own toothbrush or toothpaste that stands out for them. They may get a thrill by finding their favorite animated character or animal design right on their brush! Just be sure that their choice for both brush and paste are ADA approved.