Turn Toothbrushing Into a Game to Help Your Children Brush
Dental health is something you should be thinking about from the moment your infant cuts his first tooth. From baby to toddler to school-age, children need to learn the importance of good oral health. As you have probably learned from being a parent, sitting down and lecturing your child isn’t likely to do much good. A more effective approach is to turn tooth brushing into a game. Here are some ideas to help your child brush their teeth!
When Should Children Start Toothbrushing?
It takes children several years (until about age 3) for them to have the right dexterity to be able to brush their own teeth well. That means you’ll have to do their toothbrushing for them. As a parent, you need to start brushing your child’s tooth when the first one comes in. Even if your baby is only 3 or 4 months old, that is when you would start the toothbrushing. Luckily, it’s fairly easy to brush the teeth when there are only a few in the mouth.
If your child is an infant still, you can get a small gum brush. This is a rubbery finger brush that slips on the top of one of your fingers. You place the tiniest amount of baby toothpaste (not yours) on the brush and brush that tiny tooth. Aim for twice a day. If that doesn’t work out, at least brush their tiny teeth at night. For a few small teeth, it will only take a few seconds to get them clean.
As a child ages and starts to use their hands more, you can try teaching them to brush on their own. When they can hold utensils well and eat alone with them, they are ready to start toothbrushing. Help them hold the brush and learn how much toothpaste to put on the brush. Even if it takes many months, brush with them to teach them the correct technique. You can hold and guide their hand as they brush their teeth until they get the hang of it.
Toothbrushing the Correct Amount of Time
The American Dental Association recommends that all patients brush their teeth for at least 2 minutes every time they brush. Simply wetting a toothbrush and brushing for a seconds won’t cut it. But, how do you get a child to sit down and brush their teeth for 2 minutes straight?
A great way to do this is to involve technology. Even adults find it hard to brush for 2 minutes at a time. Find a song that your children love that is about 2 minutes long. Make sure they brush all over their mouth for the amount of time that the song is playing. If their favorite song is longer or shorter than 2 minutes, simply replay the song or stop it once it hits the 2-minute mark.
If music doesn’t really help your child, try a video or educational short clip. Whatever you decide is best for your child, you can always bring a tablet into the bathroom and have them brush while they learn something new from a short video. There are even many videos online such as this one that teach children how to brush their teeth correctly. No matter what you do, keep it interesting and keep them learning!
What If They Don’t Want to Brush?
Many children can get bored with toothbrushing. That’s why you want to turn toothbrushing into a game and learning experience for them. If toothbrushing is incredibly dull, they won’t want to do it. Use these tips to give your child a better experience and to make it more fun for them:
- Get bright, colorful toothbrushes with their favorite characters. If your child loves Disney princesses, get a princess brush for them.
- Get toothpastes that are fun and colorful. Children’s toothpastes can be full of fluoride and other great minerals for their teeth, but they also come in bright colors with sparkles, edible confetti bits and more. If your child hates the taste of toothpaste, get child toothpaste that has a taste they like. Don’t simply use your own toothpaste, as it may contain ingredients that aren’t as gentle on the baby teeth.
- Sing a song to them while they brush. You can even include a little dance if it gets them to brush their teeth better.
- Brush your teeth with them! The best way to learn is by example. If you’re not brushing your teeth, why would they? You can even make it a game to see who can brush their teeth the best, who can do the best circular motions, who can smile the biggest as they brush, etc.
- Read a short story to them as they brush. Make up the story or read it from their collection, but make it so you only read if they are brushing.
- Keep a toothbrushing chart to reward them each day or each time they brush their teeth well. Give them stickers on a chart or have a reward for them at the end of the week, month, etc. You can even do this reward system every night. For example, if they brush well, they get a story before bed.
- Let them practice on you. If they need to try it on you and see the difference between dirty teeth and clean teeth, let them.
Keep At It
Even if your child doesn’t want to brush, don’t give up on this habit! Children that make brushing their a habit while they are young, tend to keep that habit as they grow older. They also reduce their risk for tooth decay, gum disease and many oral health problems that require more extensive dental work. If you child won’t brush, discuss it with them and see what the problem is. If they simply don’t like their toothbrush or toothpaste, take them to the store and let them choose their own. If you keep struggling, you can always call Dr. Ania’s office at 303-443-0998!