Getting your child through the ‘Brush Your Teeth’ routine is a daily battle for most parents. It begins with the parents brushing their child's teeth and slowly transitions to supervised brushing when the child is 6 or 7 years old. It is important to make this early experience seem like a fun activity, not a compulsion or punishment.
You can use the following simple tips to get your kids to enjoy brushing their teeth:
1. The power of choice
Let your children select their own toothbrush depending on their favorite colour or cartoon character. Make sure the size and bristles of the brush are age-appropriate for your child. Let them select the flavor of the toothpaste too. Stock up a few popular flavors of kids toothpaste and ask them to choose one every time you brush their teeth.
2. Practice what you preach
Kids always learn by watching you. Just like putting on mommys' lipstick or covering their face with daddys' shaving cream, they can learn to brush their teeth too, from you! Make brushing together a family ritual. You can slow down your brushing action and encourage your child to observe and copy what you do.
3. Get teddy and bunny to brush teeth too
If your toddler doesn’t allow you to brush their teeth, welcome the soft toy friends to play the brushing games. Let your kids brush their soft toys' teeth as you brush theirs.
4. The bug and the brush battle stories
You can create stories around the brushing process, where your kids along with their favorite superhero can fight tooth bugs. You may have to get really creative with this one! Stay updated about your child’s current favorite character and make up new stories accordingly. Also, make sure you don’t make the child think that their mouth is crawling with bugs!
5. YouTube and apps to the rescue
You can use YouTube and mobile apps that play 2-minute songs and videos for brushing instructions. Added benefits of these apps could be setting reminders for brushing, dentist visits, etc.
6. Reward good behaviour
Positive reinforcement works really well when you are trying to build a good habit. Make a weekly or monthly chart, and every time your kid brushes properly, give them a star sticker or any other stickers they like. After achieving a good brushing report card, give them a toy or a storybook that they have wanted for a while. More importantly, show them that you are proud of them and their beautiful smile.
7. Don’t ignore an ‘Ouch!’
If your child is sensitive when you brush a certain area, check the reason for it. Gums covering an erupting tooth can be sensitive. You might notice a small cavity in the tooth. Sometimes even the soft bristles may prick delicate gums. Go easy on the pressure and consult a pediatric dentist right away.
8. Don’t label the dentist ‘Boogeyman’
Never force your child to brush their teeth by threatening to take them to a dentist if they don’t. Irrational fears about dentists, injections or teeth being pulled out, is not something you want to put your child through. This may not really help when you actually need them to visit a dentist for treatment.
To build life-long good oral hygiene habits, it’s important to start at an early age. Make a routine and stick to it. Slowly, brushing regularly becomes a second nature, and you are assured your child will have a healthy smile for years to come.