After over 35 years in the field of pediatric dentistry, I’m well aware that many children are not fond of brushing their teeth. Kids may find it boring or uncomfortable and they don’t understand the point. As a parent though, it is important to find a way to get your child interested in the process so that they can develop good habits at an early age.
Parents need to help their children brush, or brush for them, until the child is about 8 years old. They need help flossing until they are about 12. Since you’ll be with them while they brush and floss most of the time, there are ways that you can make the process go smoother.
So, how can you make brushing your child’s teeth less of a struggle?
Kids sometimes don’t like brushing their teeth simply because it’s boring. They love to move around and have fun, so standing still for a few minutes just doesn’t sound appealing to them.
Letting them choose their own toothbrush can make a big difference. They can choose one with their favorite TV character on it or in their favorite color to make it more exciting to use.
Make sure that whichever toothbrush they use has a handle that is easy for them to hold. The bristles should be very soft so that it doesn’t hurt their gums while they brush.
If your child is very young and really doesn’t like using a toothbrush, there are other products you can try. Tooth tissues are a great way to “brush” your baby or toddler’s teeth without using a toothbrush.
Kids, just like us, should be brushing their teeth for at least two minutes. That can seem like forever even to an adult, so imagine what it feels like to a child! A great way to make the time go by quickly is to play or sing one of their favorite songs.
Pick a song to play that is about two minutes that they will enjoy. Not only does this make brushing their teeth into a fun activity, but it gives them a frame of time so they know when it will be over.
Show And Tell
Brushing your teeth with them can make it more fun for them. Try facing each other and have them mimic what you do. It can turn into a silly game while still accomplishing the goal.
Plus, setting the example that you brush your teeth regularly shows them that it’s not a punishment; it’s just a necessary part of life. Kids want to be like their parents so they often try to imitate what we do. If you have fun while brushing your teeth, they will want to know what is so fun about it!
Children have sensitive mouths and taste buds, so finding the right toothpaste for them is important. Look for kid-friendly toothpastes that are fruity, rather than minty. Try a few different ones out and let them pick their favorite.
Make sure that you only use a pea-size drop on their toothbrush. Larger amounts aren’t necessary and can be uncomfortable for them.
There are also many children’s toothpastes that contain no fluoride, for those children who have a hard time spitting out their toothpaste. Swallowing fluoride is not recommended, so kids under the age of two should not use toothpaste that contains it. There are many options available, though, so it should be easy to find an appropriate toothpaste.
Beyond keeping your child’s teeth clean at home, they need to see a dentist before the age of one. A pediatric dentist will have a kid-friendly office and will know how to interact with children. Finding a great pediatric dentist can make a big difference in the health of your child because they are more likely to enjoy the visit.
I hope those tips help you out.
~Dr. Rhea Haugseth