Every child must learn an important life skill: brushing their teeth. As a parent, you want to ensure your child develops good habits to care for themselves. It can sometimes seem like an uphill battle to motivate children to brush their teeth well. Remember that, for your child, this is a new experience. Helping them get into the habit of brushing twice daily for two minutes is no small feat, but a little imagination can go a long way regarding long-term dental health. Brush up on the basics and make it fun!
Children are more inclined to complete the task if done together. Rather than be on the sidelines, you can demonstrate the proper techniques while spending quality time together.
Encourage your child to brush with their favorite stuffed animal. You can be the assistant as they pretend to practice on their little friend. Ask them to “teach their toy” how to brush correctly, which will help instill good personal practices too.
Get your child excited to use a new toothbrush. Let them choose one at the store to build anticipation about using it regularly. They can choose from a wide variety of different cartoon characters, princesses, unicorns, dinosaurs, etc.
Make this a fun, interactive experience. Create a playlist of their favorite songs and turn brushing time into a dance party. You can even challenge them with subtle facial expressions or groovy dance moves to pass the time. Try moving from bottom teeth to top as the song goes from verse to chorus.
It is essential to model consistency when developing healthy habits. Timers can be great for establishing a schedule with children. Try breaking the two-minute goal into 30-second intervals. Include some silly ways to mark each one: stand on one foot, then the other, switch hands, change directions, brush the tongue or outside of teeth, then switch to the inside, or change the type of brushing (ex: back and forth, up and down, or small circles).
The next time you shop for toothpaste, bring your child along to pick out a favorite flavor. It often comes in enticing flavors, such as bubble gum, strawberry, cupcake, watermelon, vanilla ice cream, or mint. For children under the age of 3, try using a fluoride-free training toothpaste that will be safe to swallow.
It takes a village! We encourage you to speak with your dentist for recommendations if you’re still struggling to inspire good, consistent habits. They can speak to all aspects of the process and reassure you when things are going well (or not) based on regular exams.
Making this process fun while instilling positive oral hygiene habits sets your child up for maintaining healthy teeth as adults. Remember to be patient and encouraging! Start implementing a few ideas from above and we’re confident your child will be happily brushing in no time.