It’s hard enough to get your kiddos to bed without the added stress of the tooth brushing battle. Forming good oral care habits from a young age is crucial to your child’s development, but it’s no easy task to complete. Where there’s a will, though, there is a way – so if you try out a few of these creative parenting ideas and find a tactic that works, stick with it to make sure your child can look forward to a lifetime of beautiful, healthy smiles.
How Important Is It to Brush Baby Teeth?
Before the Tooth Fairy makes her way to your home, plenty of brushing will be necessary. Cavities – whether they develop in baby teeth or adult teeth – are painful and costly to fill. Worse yet, developing cavities in baby teeth can have long-term effects on your child’s oral health and well-being. Children’s baby teeth must remain healthy since they are like “spot-holders” for incoming future adult teeth. Unhealthy baby teeth mean unhealthy adult teeth.
If the gums and site of tooth growth are not intact and well cared-for, this will impact the growth of adult teeth, potentially throwing adult teeth out of alignment so that they grow in crooked. As the first adult teeth to grow in, the molars are especially important as they impact the shape of your child’s face as well as the future health and position of her other adult teeth. Improper teeth position means every parent’s worst nightmare – braces – will be inevitable. Unfortunately most parents will find themselves at an orthodontist with their child at some point, but if there’s anything you can do to be proactive and avoid the pain, hassle and expense of braces, it’s keeping your child’s teeth and gums healthy from the start.
How Do I Encourage My Kids to Brush Their Teeth?
So now you understand that oral care is important for babies and children. But how do you convince your children to stick to an everyday tooth brushing routine that they can eventually do on their own? We’ve got a few ideas that might help.
Set a Good Example
Let your kids watch while you go through your flossing and brushing routine. Make a point to brush your tongue, massage your gums and reach your furthest back teeth. Use exaggerated gestures to show children very clearly each critical step to the brushing process. At the end, flash your pearly whites to the mirror to check that you’ve done a quality job, and make sure to seem very happy and proud of your efforts to show your child the reward of a brushing job well done.
Let Your Kids Practice on Others
This might be slightly uncomfortable for you, but if it works, the pay-off is worth it: if you’re tired of fighting your child to open their mouths and let you brush their teeth, open your own mouth instead and let them practice using a toothbrush on you. Again, make sure you’re a good actor – make tooth-brushing (even when performed by your child) seem fun, and your kiddo will want in on the fun, too.
If practicing on you is not the ideal option, encourage your child to practice on a stuffed animal or doll. The Baby Alive Brushy Brushy Baby Doll comes with a tube of pretend toothpaste and a pretend electric toothbrush so that your child can practice brushing while playing. Brushing your teeth will seem like a lot more fun when a toy is involved!
Make It a Game
One creative trick to encourage brushing is to dream up a story: talk about the imaginary “sugar bugs” that are attacking your child’s mouth. The only way to defeat the sugar bugs is to defend your mouth with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Add some drama to the sugar bug battle and tie a cape around your child so he can become a real superhero fighting the evil sugar bugs. (Just be careful not to scare your child into believing that his mouth is crawling with bugs – that could be traumatic for some kids!)
We know that a proper tooth-brushing needs a full two minutes, so encourage longer brushing (instead of the ol’ swab and spit that many a mischievous child has tried to pull). If you don’t have the FOREO ISSA™ mini yet, use an egg timer or your phone’s stopwatch and make it a race of sorts – brush with your child or pit your children against each other and see who can brush their teeth for the longest (just be careful that they don’t brush too vigorously and cause damage to their gums). If they give up before the two minute timer goes off, they don’t get the sticker for their tooth brushing calendar.
Dance, Play and Brush to the Music
Add some rhythm to your two minutes of brushing with the Brush DJ app for iPhone or Android. Dance around the bathroom (as long as you maintain proper teeth brushing technique!) and then when the music stops, you’re done brushing your teeth. Another option for tooth-brushing apps is Star Teeth, a simple but very cute little story that engages and encourages your child through a full two minutes of brushing.
Let them Participate in Tooth Brushing
You know the age – when your child insists on doing everything herself. Whether it’s picking up a “big kid” cup to drink from (and then spilling it all over herself), feeding herself dinner (and getting spaghetti sauce all over her face) or choosing her own outfit (and choosing her Disney princess pajamas for Picture Day), your child can’t be deterred. And why stop her from exploring and developing her independence? Encourage it in every way that’s safe (albeit probably messy).
Put this to your advantage when it comes to tooth-brushing: Let your kid find the toothpaste and toothbrush, open the tube and apply to the toothbrush bristles. Let her practice brushing all by herself – it develops her motor skills, confidence and independence, and even when she inevitably squeezes toothpaste all over the sink, it’s okay! Making mistakes is all part of the learning process.
Try a Different Toothpaste
Your local grocery store is full of toothpastes made especially for children. Kids will be delighted to see their favorite characters on the toothpaste packaging and look forward to using it to brush their teeth every night and morning. Whether it’s Spiderman, My Little Pony, or Elmo, you can find a toothpaste themed to your child’s preferences, and available in fun flavors like berry.
For children under 3 years old, using“training toothpaste” can help young brushers who are just starting out. Little ones are more likely to swallow toothpaste when they’re learning how to brush, and training toothpaste is safer to swallow because it’s fluoride-free.
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