The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identify tooth decay, most commonly known as cavities, as one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood, citing statistics that one in five children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.1
To help prevent tooth decay, parents need to make sure that tooth brushing becomes a daily habit for their children. The dictionary experts at Merriam-Webster define a habit as “an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”
There are numerous strategies which parents can use to make tooth brushing a habit that is enjoyable for children.
#1. Make it fun.
The next time you go to the store, let your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste. Many toothbrushes for children have cartoon and movie characters on the handles. Children’s toothpaste is often flavored to appeal to children’s taste buds with flavors such as bubblegum and watermelon, rather than the traditional peppermint or spearmint.
According to Colgate, whose Colgate Minion toothbrushes are currently popular, having your child choose their favorite character helps maintain the child’s interest in tooth brushing.2 The Colgate website has tips for helping select a toothbrush that is appropriate.
There are several strategies to get your child to brush for the two minutes, twice per day that is recommended by experts. The easiest is to have your child hum a song, such as the Happy Birthday song. The second involves playing your child’s favorite song during brushing.
Most popular songs are actually 3 minutes and 20 seconds, so your child will actually be brushing longer than the recommended time. A list of songs that are great motivation for young tooth-brushers can be found online.3 A good alternative to music is to read a short passage from a favorite book to your child while they brush.
A high-tech way to get kids to enjoy brushing their teeth is to use the Disney Magic Timer App by OralB.4 According to OralB, the app has kids brushing an average of 90 percent longer. Once downloaded, parents simply scan any Crest or Oral B Pro Health Stages product with their device which will start two minutes of brushing to your child’s favorite Disney, Marvel or Star Wars character.
#2. Make it challenging.
Children thrive on games and challenges and we all know that charting progress toward a goal helps achieve that goal. There are several motivational charts available online which are designed for tooth brushing.5 Simply print out a chart, buy some stickers and reward your child with a sticker each time they achieve a task listed on the chart.
There are also pre-brush rinses, like Listerine Agent Cool Blue Tinting Pre-Brush Rinse, which can identify where your child needs to focus their brushing the most. This rinse temporarily tints teeth blue to identify areas of tartar built up. Kids just need to brush away all the blue to have cleaner teeth.
#3. Make it educational.
There are many resources online which educate children on the benefits of good oral health. The more educated your child is on why good oral care is important, the easier it will be to get them to take good care of their teeth. The folks at www.detists4kids.com have links on their website to a wide variety of educational games which will help kids learn about their teeth in a fun way.6
#4. Make it routine.
We all need to brush our teeth at least twice daily for two minutes. The best times for children are in the morning after breakfast and in the evening after dinner. At both times it is better to wait 15 to 20 minutes after eating to reduce the amount of acid in the mouth which is naturally produced after eating.
Avoid having children brush teeth right before bedtime since children have a tendency to be less cooperative when tired. Be sure to keep up the brushing habit even on hectic days and lazy days, such as vacation days.
#5. Make it a family-affair.
Use tooth brushing time as a time to bond with your child. Brush your own teeth as your child brushes their teeth. This give you a great opportunity to observe how well your child is brushing and allows you to give your child tips on how to reach those tough to get spots such as the back of the mouth and the tongue side of the teeth. It also allows you to make sure your child is spitting out toothpaste, rather than swallowing it. Role modeling good oral health behaviors will go a long way in instilling in your child the importance of twice-daily oral care.
Dr. Hechtman has been providing dental care for over 40 years. Our goal at Walled Lake Dentistry is to work with our patients in achieving and maintaining long term dental health and a beautiful smile. Call us today at 248-669-5221 and get started on healthy mouth and smile!
1 Children’s Oral Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2 Kids Toothbrushes: What to Buy for Your Child, Colgate
3 7 Toothbrushing Tunes Kids (and Parents) Will Love
4Disney Magic Timer App
5 Motivational Charts
6 Kids Fun & Games