Toothbrush tips: how to get your child to brush their teeth
It’s almost impossible to get most kids excited about brushing their teeth, but thankfully there are some ways to make it easier.
For most children, brushing their teeth twice a day for two minutes is a boring chore – or torture – depending on who you ask.
Wouldn’t it be great if instead of complaints and resistance, your child ran to the sink at brushing time?
Here are some fun ways to get your child more interested in their oral hygiene routine, and to make sure their teeth are cleaned properly to help prevent cavities.
Dentist Dr David Hills has some fail-safe tips. Source: iStock
Let them choose a toothbrush
Allowing your child to pick their own toothbrush can give them a sense of ownership and pride, and make them want to use it more often. There are many fun designs such as popular cartoon characters such Dora the Explorer, Minions and Spider-Man available to purchase. You can even get toothbrushes emblazoned with the colours of your child’s favourite football team.
When it comes to toothpaste flavours, most children will find mint boring or unpleasant. Bubble-gum flavoured toothpaste is always a delicious choice, just make sure they don’t swallow it! Excess toothpaste is harmful – a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is advised. When given the opportunity I know my children like to lather their entire brush with paste, but if this occurs often, the excess fluoride in their body may cause defects in their growing adult teeth (fluorosis).
Playing games with your children is a fun way to encourage them to brush their teeth. Source: Supplied
Play music and use apps
Brush together with your child in the mirror while playing your favourite songs. You can even do a lip sync battle to make things interesting! There are many fun apps available to help with brushing. ‘Brush DJ’ will play two minutes of your favourite song to help keep time while brushing while ‘Heroes of Hygiene’ allows your child to pick a character to encourage them throughout the two minutes of brushing time.
For young children, give them a toothbrush and let them brush their doll or teddy bear’s teeth while you brush theirs. Making up exciting stories to go along with toothbrushing can help your child become more involved. Your child could be a superhero who must fight the bad bugs that destroy teeth! A reward system where your child receives a sticker for every time they brush their teeth (for the whole two minutes) can also be a great motivator. Then when they see their dentist every six to twelve months for a check-up, they can receive a prize for taking care of their teeth.
While it’s worth encouraging your kids to brush their own teeth, they will need help until around age eight. Source: iStock
How to brush
1 – Manual brush: start with the lower teeth and work your way to the top teeth. Brush the cheek side then the biting surface then the tongue side. Use a soft bristle brush with a small head as they are more comfortable for children.
2 – Electric brush: avoid using it like a regular manual brush (no back and forward action). Just hold on one tooth at a time and move over the entire tooth surface. Start on one side and work your way around the mouth.
3 – Use a children’s toothpaste from 18 months to 6 years then switch to adult paste.
4 – Flossing with a floss pick (floss with a handle) will get your kids used to the sensation of flossing. It is a great routine to get in and does reduce the risk of cavities in baby teeth.
5 – Encourage younger children to spit out as they often want to swallow the toothpaste.
And remember, children do not have the fine motor skills required to adequately brush their own teeth until the age of eight. Do not leave your toddler in charge of their own oral hygiene! You can let them brush their teeth first and then you can do it again immediately afterward.
What happens to your child’s teeth (even baby teeth) really does matter and has flow on effects for not just their oral health but total health. So get brushing!
Dr David Hills is a dentist and the founder of iNEEDaDentist a comparison website that connects Australians with their ideal dentists. For more information, visit their website.