Convince your child to invest in their oral health.
Teaching your children about oral hygiene, explaining why it’s important, and encouraging them to build healthy habits is a vital part of protecting their oral health in the short- and long-term—especially since baby teeth are more vulnerable to decay than adult teeth. Unfortunately, convincing your children to invest the time and care into their teeth isn’t always easy, especially when there are so many other activities they’d rather be doing. If you’re struggling to get your children interested in brushing and flossing their teeth or simply looking for ways to make the process go more smoothly, here are a few tried-and-true ways you can pique their interest in their oral health.
1. Make oral hygiene into a regular routine.
Kids thrive on routine, so establishing a twice-daily oral hygiene routine for your kids while they’re still young can help limit future resistance to brushing their teeth. Don’t let your child skip a morning, even if it’s rare—if your child accepts the routine as a normal part of the day, they’re much less likely to push back against it. Sticking to a routine is certainly worth it in the long run; decay can spread quickly in baby teeth, and healthy oral hygiene habits will benefit and protect your kids’ oral health for their entire lives.
2. Let your children choose their own toothbrush.
Simply letting your children choose a fun toothbrush can go a long way towards motivating them to brush their teeth. A special toothbrush can be budget-friendly, but it adds a touch of excitement to the daily routine, gives them a sense of ownership over it, and helps them feel more invested in it.
3. Brush your teeth with your child.
Brushing your teeth together may sound simple, but it shows your child that you practice what you preach, which helps them understand the importance of oral hygiene for everyone. Many kids want to be like their parents, so they may be more willing to brush their teeth with you—and they’ll learn how to do it properly by watching the way you brush yours. It also enables you to watch your kids while they brush their teeth, making sure they’re doing a good job and brushing their teeth for long enough, without seeming like you’re hovering.
4. Allow your children to brush their own teeth.
As they grow, many kids become insistent on doing everything themselves, which can cause arguments when it’s time to brush their teeth. To prevent as many arguments as possible and keep oral hygiene fun for your children, let them brush their own teeth—with supervision, of course. This helps them develop motor skills and learn how to brush their teeth on their own, so you’re not simply appeasing them. Give them praise or tips as they do and pay attention to the areas they’re missing; once they’re done, take their toothbrush and tell them you’re just going to get the last nooks and crannies, then brush their teeth again.
5. Set a timer to make sure they brush for a full two minutes.
Two minutes often seems like a long time for young children, so it can be hard for them to brush their teeth for long enough—even if they’re genuinely trying to be thorough. To resolve this, simply set a timer. Your child will know exactly how long they’ve been brushing, and they’ll no longer need the timer once they become more familiar with what two minutes feels like.
6. Use songs to teach or time your children.
Songs are powerful teaching and motivational tools simply because they’re catchy and fun; the tune and lyrics make information about oral hygiene and brushing their teeth easier to remember and your kids will have a blast singing along. Music is also a fun way to time how long they’re brushing their teeth while keeping your children entertained. After all, brushing their teeth with nothing else to focus on can be boring for your children, but adding music and maybe a few silly dance moves help the routine seem to fly by and make your children more willing to brush their teeth.
7. Design a reward system to encourage them.
Reward systems can be incredibly motivating for children, so it’s a good idea to make a chart where you can mark each time your children brush and floss their teeth. Give young children a reward each time they complete the task, such as a sticker, stamp, or the ability to pick out a bedtime story, but steer away from using candy as a reward—after all, you’re teaching them about oral hygiene! As they age, you can begin giving them a special reward at the end of each week if they’ve done well, such as a little extra screen time, a small allowance, or choosing a fun family activity.
8. Encourage your children to practice on their favorite toy.
For your children, practicing on a favorite doll or stuffed animal can make a surprisingly fun game, but it also normalizes oral hygiene, teaches them how to brush teeth, and reiterates just how important it is for everyone! Once your children have cleaned every inch of their toy’s imaginary teeth, you can say, “Now that their teeth are clean, it’s time to get yours squeaky clean, too!” If you’re willing, you may even want to let your little one practice on you—just make sure you go back and brush your teeth later.
9. Read books to teach your child about the importance of oral hygiene.
Books use stories to teach children about oral hygiene in a fun way—your kids might not even notice they’re learning! You can choose story-focused books that normalize oral hygiene or strictly informational books. This helps you tackle topics your children need to learn more about, from oral hygiene and visiting the dentist to the local anesthesia that makes fillings painless. More informational books can even answer specific questions your children may have, such as “what does a cavity look like?” Reading books about dentistry for children can help start conversations about these topics with your kids, giving them the chance to ask you questions about your own experience with dentists and cavities.
10. Find a dentist your child is comfortable around.
While your child only sees their dentist about twice a year, it’s incredibly important that they feel comfortable around them. It’s worth it to do a little searching and find a skilled, compassionate dentist in Waldorf, MD who your kids genuinely enjoy visiting; the right dentist can encourage your children to work harder at their daily oral hygiene routine, provide ideas to make the task fun, and make your children’s appointments much less stressful. If you haven’t found the right dentist yet, you can start your search by deciding how far you’d like to drive and Googling “children’s dentist near me” or “Frederick pediatric dentistry.” Don’t be afraid to visit a few different dentists to find one who checks all your boxes.
Teaching your child about oral hygiene and settling them into a daily oral hygiene routine may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of ways you can make the process fun and encourage your child to build healthy oral hygiene habits. With a little work on your end, your child will build habits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.