Being a parent is such a huge responsibility. It seems we are always questioning our decisions, thinking and re-thinking the choices we make for our children. And that includes all the choices and practices we must teach them to take care of their health and their body. One of the most important things we teach them to take care of is their teeth. The Centers For Disease Control reports that 1 in 5 kids ages 5-11 have had at least one decayed tooth, untreated. Yes, their oral health is VERY IMPORTANT and it gives us parents a huge task: make brushing their teeth important AND fun!! Not as easy as it sounds, right? If we can accomplish potty training, education, and tying shoelaces, we can and we MUST conquer brushing and flossing. There are so many fun creative ways to approach brushing for kids. In honor of February being National Children's Dental Health Month, let’s dig into some great ways to help your kids LOVE to brush and floss their teeth!
A Good Place to Start
For most parents, the biggest question to unpack is: Where do I even start? We know brushing is important, we know there are THOUSANDS of brushes to choose from, we have a million questions! Here’s a few thoughts to get your mind in gear as you help your child grow in their oral health journey.
- Start by making brushing time always in the bathroom, where their toothbrush stays. As they grow in this habit walking in the bathroom will trigger their memory that they need to brush their teeth in the morning and the evenings.
- To get them excited about starting, do a countdown, like the countdown to a space shuttle launch. This makes it more exciting and gives them the opportunity to practice counting backwards, all in one activity.
- Let them see themselves in the mirror as you stand behind them so they can watch while you brush their teeth.
- Start brushing on their back teeth and you can work your way forward, ending up on their front teeth.
- Make up a fun song you can sing while you brush their teeth, it brings a joyful mood to brushing.
- You brush when they brush! After you have helped them brush, or supervise them when they get older, you brush YOUR teeth with them there. They will learn by watching you and see you make brushing your teeth a priority and it will encourage them to do the same.
- Children (and adults alike) should brush their teeth a minimum of two minutes twice a day. A good, and fun way to teach them about brushing and time is to get them a kids sonic toothbrush. Highly recommend the Brilliant Kids Sonic Toothbrush and Character Sonic Toothbrushes by Brilliant Oral Care. Yes, there are sonic toothbrushes for kids! They come with battery- operated sonic motors and LED lights that light up their mouth so you, and they, can see where they are brushing. The brush has a 2 minute timer and will pulse every 30 seconds, letting you know it’s time to switch to another area of the mouth. These brushes come in several really adorable animal characters that kids love, making them even more excited to brush their teeth.
Helpful Things To Consider
We have a starting point, now what are some helpful pointers, things I might not know or think of, and suggestions that could really help me along the way?
- If your kids like to watch videos, remember the internet is FULL of great, educational videos for kids about the right way to brush and floss that you can watch together. One suggestion is https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en and search ‘kids dental videos”.
- Get your kids excited about going to visit the dentist. Only say positive things about visits to the dentist and let them know how much the dentist really cares about the health of their teeth and make each visit something they look forward to.
- Make sure you make brushing and flossing their teeth a normal part of their everyday routine, just like getting dressed, taking a bath and changing their clothes.
- Make sure you only let them have the amount of toothpaste recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the size of a grain of rice for kids 3 and under, and paste the size of a pea for kids 3-6 years old. Fluoride is not safe to be swallowed, so until your child is old enough to spit out toothpaste, a great, safe alternative is gel made with xylitol. We recommend Spry Xylitol Tooth Gelby Brilliant Oral Care. Xylitol helps prevent bacteria from sticking to their teeth and the gel is safe if swallowed.
- Find the right kind of brush for your child (either manual or electric/sonic) and let them help pick out what color or character they like the most, this way they feel part of the decision process and it creates some enthusiasm on their part. Kids love it when we let them help choose things that have meaning in their lives. If sonic isn’t a good choice, there are some great manual brushes by Brilliant Oral Care and oral care kits with something for each stage as your child grows.
Fun Ideas For Kids Who Struggle With Brushing
Not all kids jump up and down with excitement when it comes to routine and necessary things, like baths, vegetables and brushing their teeth! If you can relate to that in a REAL way, here’s some ideas that might help!
- If they try to push your hands away from brushing, put their hand on top of your hand and let them “help” you brush, this gives them the feeling that they have some kind of control and help in brushing their teeth.
- If you get some resistance to brushing time, treat it like many parents do potty training. Create a brush chart where they can earn stickers each time they brush. After so many stickers they earn a reward (and get to pick their stickers.)
- As your kids are learning to brush their teeth, let them have a “practice” toothbrush for their doll, teddy bear or favorite action figure. Make sure to only let them use it with your direct supervision as they could hurt or damage their own gums.
- Read them a great kids story about good oral care that will encourage them to want to brush and know the importance behind it. A great kids story to encourage them is Sugar Bugs by Dr. Sam and Erica Weisz.
- Play part of their favorite song while they brush their teeth. See how many times brushing and flossing it takes to reach the end of the song (pause it each time they are done, pick it up where they left off the next time they come to the bathroom to take care of their mouth.)
February Is National Children's Dental Health Month
We wanted to celebrate Children's Dental Health Month by doing what we can to help you, as a parent and caregiver, teach your child the importance of taking care of their teeth. It's one of the most important things they will learn that will be a constant their entire life. And there really are some great ways to make it fun in the time you spend together showing them how to make tooth brushing a part of their daily routine. A healthy child includes a healthy smile and behind every smile is a smiling parent!
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