Dental hygiene and healthy brushing are two of the most important habits to instill into any young child. Not only do teeth serve a purpose for eating, but they’re also important for communication. Without proper brushing techniques, kids can experience a lifetime of dental issues.
Unfortunately, when children are young, it’s hard to explain all the potential consequences to them. That’s why we advise parents to make brushing teeth as fun as possible in the home. Once children enjoy the process of brushing their teeth, it’s much easier to stick to the habit of taking care of their dental hygiene.
If you’re struggling to find ways to get your child to brush their teeth every day, we’ve compiled a list of tips that will help you. Some are fun, some are practical and some will take diligence from you as the parent. But all of them will help set your child up for a healthy, beautiful smile.
When to Start Brushing Your Child’s Teeth
It often comes as a surprise to many parents, but taking care of your child’s teeth starts before their first tooth even arrives. After feeding, we recommend taking a soft towel, dipped in water, to the inside of your child’s mouth and their gums.
This practice not only exposes your child to dental hygiene routines early and often, but it also helps prevent Early Childhood Caries (baby bottle tooth decay). Even before your child’s teeth come in, if their mouth isn’t properly cared for, they are at risk for potential problems, so staying on top of your routine is crucial.
Once your child’s first couple teeth come in, you can begin transitioning to a soft bristle brush to help them keep their teeth clean. We suggest using a small smear of toothpaste until your child reaches two years old. After that, you can graduate to a pea-sized drop of toothpaste to keep their mouth clean.
When Can My Child Begin to Brush Their Own Teeth?
Every child is different, so it’s hard to give an exact time that a child can begin to brush their teeth on their own. Generally speaking, though, between the ages of six and seven, children start to develop the dexterity needed to effectively brush their teeth. Keep an eye on your child’s progress and slowly ease them into the responsibility of brushing their teeth. If you need to help them with the process, it can also be a fun activity to do together.
How to Get Your Child to Enjoy Brushing Their Teeth
The moment your child is in charge of brushing their own teeth is often the moment where it becomes very difficult to get them into a regular routine. For parents of children who are more reluctant to agree to brush their teeth, here are some helpful tips for you. Use one or all of them to get your kids excited about keeping their teeth healthy and strong.
1. Set the Example
The best way to encourage your child to brush their teeth every day is to set an example yourself. Children look up to their parents and their older siblings for inspiration on how to behave and what to prioritize. If you model good brushing behavior, it is more likely that your child will be excited to brush their teeth every day.
2. Get A Toothbrush They Enjoy
The great thing about dental hygiene for kids is many companies provide fun options for them. Usually, you can find a toothbrush with their favorite fictional characters on it or ones with bright colors they enjoy. It may sound silly, but the more that you can make their toothbrush seem like a fun toy, the more likely children are to want to use it when it’s time to brush their teeth.
3. Make Brushing Teeth a Game
Most children respond best to play and fun. In order to motivate your children into brushing their teeth, try turning it from a chore into a game. Set the timer and encourage them to brush the entire length of time. Maybe offer incentives for the most consecutive days your child remembers to brush their teeth without you asking. Any number of tricks that turn teeth brushing into a fun thing for your child will help keep them excited.
4. Incorporate Music
Some families find that music helps the entire experience. Whether it relieves anxieties about brushing, distracts from the amount of time they’re spending in the bathroom or adds to the fun atmosphere, music usually helps. Try browsing YouTube for some fun teeth brushing songs or put on your child’s current favorite song to listen to while they’re brushing.
5. Be Careful with The Toothpaste
Children can often put too much toothpaste on their brush when they first start brushing on their own. Unfortunately, it can turn into a bad experience if the flavor is wrong or they start to choke on the toothpaste. In order to avoid any mishaps, make sure to monitor the amount of toothpaste your child is using. As they age, you can gradually increase the amount your child uses. When they’re first beginning to learn about dental hygiene, it’s important to use the proper size. You can find more in-depth recommendations from our previous post, 5 Tips to Keep Your Child’s Teeth Healthy.
6. Use Fun Flavored Toothpaste
Speaking of toothpaste, studies have shown that children swallow less of the mint-flavored toothpaste than they do the fun, kid-friendly flavors. If you want to make sure that your child is brushing their teeth, and not simply enjoying a toothpaste snack, make sure to pick up a more minty flavor.
Don’t worry about the “adult” vs “kids” label on toothpaste. It’s perfectly fine to use the adult toothpaste as long as you’re only using a smear layer. Make sure that you’re in charge of smearing toothpaste while your children are still young. If your child wants more than the recommended amount of toothpaste and you’re concerned about them swallowing too much fluoride, give them toothpaste without fluoride to minimize any effects.
7. Set Regular Dentist Visits
Finally, schedule regular pediatric dental visits so your child can see how important dental hygiene is. The more consistently they meet with the dentist and are rewarded for healthy habits, the more likely they’ll be to continue their teeth brushing routine well into adulthood.
Learn More from Timberwood Park Pediatric Dentist
If you want to learn more tips for keeping your child’s teeth sparkling, take a look at our blog or stop by our offices. We are more than happy to answer questions, schedule appointments and offer some advice on how to encourage your child to brush their teeth every single day.