If your kids are old enough to have any teeth at all, chances are you've already experienced the "joys" of getting them to brush. When the first few teeth start to come in, brushing is a somewhat novel experience for little ones, but as they age, brushing dynamics shift. Toddlers want to do everything themselves, making it tough to get a good tooth brushing session. Older kids tend to forget and then put up a fight when you push the issue.
The health of your children's teeth is paramount to their overall health. Gum and teeth issues can pose problems for oral health, and they can also cause illness and infection in other areas of the body. Proper brushing is key, but what can you do when your kids just don't want to do it--or refuse to do it properly (which is just as bad as not brushing)? There are ways to encourage your kids to brush their teeth and the earlier you start, the better your chances are at teaching them a good lifelong health habit. Here are four tips that can help:
1. Make It Consistent - If you don't show your kids the twice daily habit of brushing (as dentists recommend), they will learn that it doesn't really matter. This will affect their attitude toward brushing going forward. Even if they argue, fight the good fight and be consistent about making them brush in the morning and at night, at the very least, as part of their routine.
2. Make It Fun - When you're establishing brushing habits, kids may see the routine as boring. They do have to stand there twice a day, for at least two minutes (as dentists advise), after all. Who has time for that? Making something routine into something fun is a great way to keep kids interested. Let kids help you pick out a special rinse cup they like and establish a place "just for them" to store their toothbrush and dental care tools.
Toothbrushes today aren't what they once were. You can find them decorated with special characters that kids love, like the Oral-B 'Stages' series (with everything from Smurfs to The Little Mermaid and Dora), or with built-in timers like Dr. Fresh Firefly LightUp Timer toothbrush for kids. You can also find toothbrushes with pop tunes and music like Arm & Hammer Tooth Tunes (with songs from Selena Gomez, One Direction and the Black Eyed Peas).
Spend extra if necessary for yummy, kid-friendly toothpaste (with flouride, say the experts) in flavors like bubblegum and grape. You can also find toothpastes with sparkles, shapes and other fun things inside. Let your kids pick which they like best. Dentists most frequently recommend Oral-B "Stages," Tom's of Maine for kids, and Colgate 2-in-1 with yummy flavors like watermelon and strawberry.
3. Make It Healthy - You may think that brushing teeth is a healthy habit, but only when done correctly. Incorrect brushing doesn't effectively remove plaque, food and other bits that are left on teeth throughout the day. Proper technique is key. Toothbrushes should be angled at 45 degrees along the gums and moved in a circular motion, rather than back and forth. Spend about five seconds scrubbing each tooth. Teach kids to do it right, so you don't have to undo bad habits later. You can sing or play silly games, tell jokes or read them a book while they brush so they don't feel the process become tedious.
4. Make It Thorough - A complete tooth cleaning should include more than just brushing, dentists say. Thorough brushing is a great first step, but make sure to teach your kids to take the next step in their oral care. Flossing is a major component of oral care that even adults often overlook. Kids may not like the feeling and may not navigate the technique at first, but if you stay patient, they'll get it eventually. Remember, brushing won't remove all those sticky foods like fruit roll-ups and other goodies that get stuck between the teeth and cause cavities. Flossing is necessary to remove those, so remind kids to "floss the teeth you want to keep."