As adults, we all know how important it is to brush our teeth at least twice a day: once in the morning and once before we go to bed. When it comes to little ones, however, this task is so much easier said than done. Trying to get out the door in the morning or putting them down to sleep at night can be a challenge in itself, without the added difficulty of brushing and flossing. Basically, brushing your child’s teeth can be like … well, pulling teeth.
As tough as it may be, creating good oral hygiene habits from an early age is critical to your kids’ overall health, both now and in the future. At Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry, we want to help your little ones feel their best and we believe that starts with a healthy smile. Here are some tips from your Williamsburg and Park Slope pediatric dentist on how to turn your children’s tooth brushing routine into a fun, family activity that everyone can enjoy.
Why Brushing and Flossing is Important for Kids
You might think that you can skip the hassle of brushing and flossing your children’s teeth because their baby teeth will fall out anyway. But practicing proper oral hygiene from day one will help to set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy gums and teeth. While it’s true that your child’s baby teeth will eventually fall out, they are just as susceptible to cavities as adult teeth, which can not only be painful but expensive to fix. Cavities can also have long-lasting negative effects on your child’s oral health, even long after the baby tooth is gone.
Brushing and flossing isn’t just about teeth, either. It’s just as important (if not more important) to take care of your child’s gums, too. Gum disease is linked to many chronic illnesses, like diabetes, heart disease, dementia and more. Set your children up for lifelong wellness by teaching them how to care for their teeth and gums now. Here’s how.
1. Play a Two-Minute Tune to Pass the Time with Ease
Most people are aware of the two-minute rule for brushing your teeth. But for kids (and let’s face it, for many adults), those two minutes can feel like a lifetime. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and the same can be true for brushing your child’s teeth. Put on a two-minute song (like this fun tooth-themed tune) and have a family tooth brushing dance party! When you make tooth brushing this much fun, you’ll never have a problem getting your kids on board again.
2. Make Brushing and Flossing a Family Affair
You know how kids love to do the exact opposite of what you tell them to do? Brushing and flossing their teeth is no different. If you make oral hygiene feel like a chore like setting the table or washing the dishes, they’ll never want to do it. Instead, turn your tooth routine into a family event where everyone gets involved. Kids love to copy their parents, so really exaggerate your brushing and flossing movements. Brush your tongue, get those hard-to-reach places and take your time. This has the added benefit of showing your child proper technique — win win!
3. Make Sticker Charts to Reward Your Kids for Brushing and Flossing
Kids are super motivated by rewards, so why not make brushing and flossing a way to work towards an extra special treat? Print out or create a monthly calendar, and buy fun stickers your child loves. Each time your child brushes and flosses, let her pick out a sticker to mark her success. When she fills up the entire month, reward her with something even more exciting, like a trip to the ice cream shop or a new toy. Each time she misses a day, mark it with an X or an upside-down smiley face. This will help your child visualize how her actions lead to a positive outcome.
4. Turn Brushing and Flossing into a Game
Every child loves to play games, right? Turning healthy habits, like brushing and flossing, into fun games will guarantee your kiddos will be excited to pull out their toothbrush every day. Create a story around tooth brushing about the “sugar bugs” who can only be defeated by a superhero tooth brusher! Then set a timer and race to see who can get the most sugar bugs off their teeth in two minutes. This type of game can be especially effective for competitive siblings who love a challenge.
5. Have a Tooth Brushing Buddy
Many kids have a favorite toy or stuffed animal that rarely leaves their side. Keeping this little buddy close by during brushing and flossing can help alleviate anxiety or stress that might come up. Before brushing or flossing in the morning or at night, let your kiddos practice on their toy or teddy bear. Taking care of their own little friend will teach them how important it is to take care of their own teeth, too.
6. Let Your Little Ones Choose Their Own Toothpaste and Toothbrushes
Many parents make the mistake of ordering their children to brush and floss their teeth, giving them no control over the situation. But your kiddos are more likely to take an active role in their oral hygiene when you give them a say, especially when you’re first introducing them to the process. Fortunately, there are delicious, kid-approved flavors of toothpaste (like bubble gum or cherry) and many fun toothbrushes patterned in their favorite animals or cartoon characters. Giving your little ones the power to choose their own paste, brush and floss will make them more excited to clean their teeth.
7. Find an Awesome Pediatric Dentist to Give You Tips
At the end of the day, parents can do everything they can think of to make brushing and flossing more fun for their kids, but sometimes it just doesn’t click. If you’ve tried all of these tips and your kids still aren’t interested in learning how to take care of their teeth, talk to your Park Slope and Williamsburg pediatric dentist. The doctors at Bitesize Pediatric Dentistry are just a phone call away and we’re always happy to answer questions about your children’s oral health.