February is Dental Health Month. It’s important (obviously) that you help teach kids to brush their teeth and floss at home. The tricky part is that toddlers don’t yet understand the importance of brushing their teeth. The fear of cavities doesn’t outweigh their resistance to letting someone else put a toothbrush in their mouth. It is scary and uncomfortable — and I get that; I still don’t like going to the dentist.
Last summer, my toothbrush-hating son (who was four years old at the time) had to have several fillings and overlays on his teeth (the poor kid inherited my cavity-prone deep grooves). This was performed in an outpatient setting where he was sedated and put under to have the dental work done. This was a smack in the face, as my husband and I feel guilty that we weren’t doing a good enough job making sure his teeth were brushed — and brushed really well.
This prompted me to do some research on how to teach kids to brush their teeth and to help find ways I can make teeth brushing less daunting for the kids. I found some things that work for us and want to share those suggestions to help you get your children more at ease when it comes to brushing (and hopefully keep the cavities at bay):
6 Ways to Teach Kids to Brush Their Teeth
Make brushing teeth part of the morning and evening routines.
After breakfast, make it a point to brush her teeth. Brush yours, too. In the evenings, try brushing your children’s teeth before bath time or even during the bath. Avoid waiting until after bath time when your child may be too sleepy and might put up a fight. We have realized the refusal and tantrums are much worse after bath time.
Play dentist throughout the day.
Play with the tooth brush to help your child get used to the idea of brushing her teeth and give her the opportunity to work out her feelings. She can brush her dolls’ teeth. You can even let her brush your teeth to give her some power and she’ll probably have a lot of fun. Then later you can take a turn brushing her teeth (hopefully) without a drag-out, knock-down fight.
Use sounds and make things fun.
Have her open her mouth and say “ahhhh” or “ohhh.” Sing a song of her choice – it can be a normal or silly one. Songs make the teeth brushing process more fun and kind of like a game. You can sing songs like, “The toothbrush in the mouth goes round and round.” Singing helps reassure children that the brushing time will soon come to an end and also reinforces routine.
Keep it short and sweet.
It’s not pleasant to have someone poke and prod in your mouth — even for grownups. At this time, work on just getting your child acquainted with brushing her teeth every day. Continue to lengthen the brushing time as she gets older.
|All smiles at the dentist last summer!|
Play copy or follow the leader.
Most kids love to follow what adults do — but they tend to say those magic words, “I want to do it myself.” So brush together while watching yourselves in the mirror. Have her do the same as you.
Give them choices.
We have two types of toothpaste on hand. We also have regular and electric toothbrushes for both kids. Sometimes I wish I could call the shots and say we are brushing your teeth right now … but I have found that giving the kids options – such as a choice between Spiderman and Doc McStuffins toothpaste – really helps them be more compliant and allows me to help them get their teeth nice and clean. Your children respond so much better when they feel like they have some power.
If your child resists and nothing seems to work, try not to get into a power struggle. Just keep playing with the toothbrush and eventually she should work out some of her resistances. There are countless books and movies and even YouTube videos of kids brushing their teeth if you need some more help.
Visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry to read more oral health tips. It’s a great resource and can answer many questions for you.
Need to see a dentist, and quickly? Check out Emergency Dentist USA to find one near you, for adults or kids.
How do you help teach kids to brush their teeth and make teeth brushing part of your daily routine? Share any tips and how you have helped make your child like brushing her teeth.
Tags: brushing teeth