Getting creative and interacting with your child will help take the struggle out of brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, and maybe even turn it into a routine your child looks forward to!
- Make it a family activity. Brush and floss in front of your child enough times, and he or she is going to want to join in! Dance, turn it into a game, or do whatever it takes to convince your child that this is a fun daily routine that they’re missing out on. One parent can brush the other parent’s teeth. Or, better yet, let your child brush your teeth for you! Kids want to feel in control, not like someone is coming at their mouth with a pointy object.
- Get out of the bathroom. Pack travel toothbrushes and flossing sticks so you can brush on the beach after a family picnic. Brush in the car. I always carry interdental piks and floss in my car and purse.
- Make Toothpaste Optional. Toothpaste far too often limits when and where we brush. Toothpaste can make kids gag or need to spit, as well as add unnecessary mess, making it a chore. I’ve found that toothpaste just reminds parents that they’ll have to go into the bathroom with a bottle of Windex to wipe down the sink afterward. So skip the toothpaste — it’s not necessary!
- Get in front of the mirror. Most parents sit their child down on the toilet and stick a toothbrush in their mouth. Kids invariably hate this. Have your child looking at a mirror instead, while you stand behind to brush. This makes kids feel more in control and more at ease.
- Avoid gauze. Lots of baby books recommend using gauze to wipe your baby’s teeth. I’ve found that gauze isn’t effective and wastes precious time to teach your child the proper way to brush. No child is going to get excited to brush their teeth when their first experience is the cottony taste of gauze — yuck!
- Make it a priority. We’re all squeezing oral hygiene into our busy schedules, and our children interpret this to mean that it’s not important. Parents rush through it, and so kids try to get it done as quickly as possible too. Rushing it leads to over brushing, which is a common cause of tooth sensitivity, since over brushing causes small lesions in the teeth. Now is the time to send the message to your kids that their oral health is a priority. Take it slow and make time for it!
- Don’t threaten. The best thing you can do is keep it positive. Children are often told that if they don’t brush, they’ll have to see the dentist as a punishment. I can say from experience that shame simply doesn’t work when it comes to making brushing and flossing a habit. Instead, play your child’s favorite song while brushing.
- Go analog. Buy a cheap hourglass with sand in it that your child can turn over to see how long they need to brush. Digital timers aren’t as tangible for children, who crave something more physical.
Excerpt from Dr. Mark Burhenne, DDS