I am excited by today’s guest post by Dr. Jonathan Everett. Dental health is very important for our overall health, and the best time to instill these important habits in our children is when they are young.
We all love our kids, but let’s be real- sometimes they can be infuriatingly stubborn about the most, simple aspects of daily life. Tooth brushing is one of these instances when kids seemingly love to taunt us with their refusal to participate in a routine that is necessary for their health and safety.
How can we get our kids not only to brush their teeth but to like it enough that they keep doing it without our constant prodding?
It turns out, although adults almost never think of brushing our teeth as a fun activity, kids can find fun in almost any novel experience. If, as a parent, you can make oral hygiene a fun, new, and exciting activity, your kids will love it just as much as playing in the pool or drawing dinosaurs (okay, well maybe not that much).
Incorporate music somehow into the process
If you haven’t already noticed, kids seemingly become musical connoisseurs from a very young age. Constantly humming and singing, kids love bringing music into daily life.
Find a song about two minutes long, and challenge your child to see if he or she can hum the song while brushing their teeth to the rhythm. If you have more than one child, turn the bathroom into a tiny concert hall during tooth-brushing time: one child gets to sing a song using their own toothbrush as a microphone while the other brushes his or her teeth, and then they can trade roles. Consider bringing a CD player into a dry part of the bathroom for inspiration. Just make sure they don’t get too rowdy or swallow any toothpaste in the process!
Kids love being creative, and if you notice any other funny habits your child has while brushing his or her teeth, see if you can convert it into a creative game. There are even some toothbrushes out there that play music while your child brushes his or her teeth! However, kids usually have more fun when they can pick the song.
Use fun technology to time brushing
Kids also love getting to use technology such as iPads and iPhones. There are many free countdown apps available which let you set a timer, then pick fun noises to play when the time is up. Letting your child set the timer and watch as the clock ticks down can be a way to add excitement and autonomy to the process. Make sure your phone stays in a dry place, though!
Does your child have a favorite cartoon character or color? There is a wide variety of toothbrushes designed to appeal to children. Letting him or her pick out a toothbrush can add fun to the process, and kids love chances to make a choice about something they use.
You can also buy plain toothbrushes and nontoxic waterproof permanent markers and have a fun and creative toothbrush design party, where your children can draw their own designs on the toothbrush handle.
Also, getting new types of toothbrushes such as electric spinning brushes can get your child excited to try something new and learn how to use the brush, and be proud after they have figured it out.
Make Brushing a Challenge
See if you can make a competition between you and your child for who can brush their teeth better, then bring in an impartial observer like your spouse to “judge” the contest for the cleanest teeth (and you should probably let your kid win!).
Alternatively, make brushing teeth into a quest where plaque and food particles are evil monsters that the superhero toothbrush must fight in order to save the mouth village. You can also read a story to your kid during brushing, or encourage her to think of one she gets to tell to the family when she’s finished.
Routine and Consistency
The most important part of getting kids to brush is to make it part of the daily routine. If your kids know that 7 am and 7 pm are the times to brush, don’t fudge and let them have a few minutes or extra playtime, or they will never keep a consistent routine.
If they learn that it always happens at the same time, they will eventually start to do it without your constant reminders, and may even begin to look forward to it!
Parenting is all about making an adventure out of the mundane. By following these tips, you and your child can have fun when it’s time to clean those pearly whites.
Dr. Jonathan Everett received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington and completed his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Washington State University. He currently runs a dental practice in Kirkland Advanced Smile Dental Program with his partner.
A member of the American Dental Association and Academy of Operative Dentistry, Dr. Everett strives to continue providing the most advanced and
clinically-proven dental care available in the region. Dr. Everett is the recipient of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists Award.