Parents know the importance of brushing their teeth, but getting your children into the habit can sometimes seem like a hard-won after a long temper tantrum filled-day. However, by incorporating teeth brushing into the everyday routine of your family life, you’re helping to instil childhood memories also developing a lifelong habit of good oral health.
If you’re at wit’s end when it comes to creating this valuable dental health routine, never fear! We’ve found some tips to help get you started. You may even discover unique tricks that transform teeth brushing time into an exciting or memorable part of their daily routine, one which you won’t have to struggle with as they grow into their teenage years.
1 – Create a game when it comes to teeth brushing
The easiest way to encourage teeth brushing, especially in children under 5 is to make it an educational or challenge based game. This helps to reinforce the habit as something “we do every day” while learning something new because kids begin to associate it as fun together time (note: not silly time), FUN instead of a chore they have to do to avoid getting into trouble.
Some challenges we’ve tried include:
- Step by Step – ensuring we brush each separate tooth and take our time to get toothpaste on every “single little toofy”.
- Teeth Timer – set up a timer and see who can keep brushing until time runs out!
- Two things at once – can you brush your teeth and try not to blink? Or maybe brush your teeth and stand on one foot? Perhaps they need to brush their teeth and stand as still as a tree. Whatever you set as the challenge, we encourage you to make the focus about brushing their teeth and calming the rest of their bodies down.
2 – Make it more than just an oral health routine
Design a To-Do chart that includes pictures for younger kids and breaks down what we do every day as this will be a visual cue as to what everyone needs to do throughout the day. This is a great way to encourage kids to complete the daily necessities and also helps you to keep the household in line, especially if you have more than one child and routine becomes even more paramount to family life. By indicating where and when teeth brushing should occur, you’re setting expectations that become habit-forming. Of course, modelling the behaviour we’d like our kids to follow, especially when it comes to taking care of our health is a priority, so try to stick to the habit of brushing your teeth together.
3 – Choose age-appropriate toothbrushes and toothpaste
Similar to the ‘game’ idea introduced earlier, your choice of toothbrush and toothpaste is important, especially in early brushing stages. Make the selection more enjoyable by incorporating elements of storytelling elements. For example, the toothbrush is a hero who uses a magical toothpaste to scrub away food monsters that might hurt their teeth or gums. Of course, you will know your children best and should use your judgement when it comes to what might scare them. You can extend this game into a regular routine by encouraging kids to select their own toothbrush when it needs renewing. We also recommend that you consider investing in an electric toothbrush, especially if you use one yourself.
4 – Stay positive when it comes to establishing the dental health routine
Sometimes, if all seems to fail, negotiation is the only thing we can do. However, kids shouldn’t be bribed into establishing healthy daily routines as this may make it harder for you in years to come. Consider negotiation in terms of a shorter brush time, or perhaps they just gargle tonight if their teeth are sore. Depending on their age, you may also want to explore “chewable toothbrushes” which might be more fun and used as a treat when they’re being particularly defiant.
5 – Set the tooth brushing routine, by sticking to it yourself
Kids watch everything the adults and family around them do, and like sponges, they absorb EVERYTHING that happens around them. Use this to your advantage by setting the benchmarks – that we brush our teeth every morning and every night, no matter what. By making a showing, not just telling your children about the importance of making oral health a priority.
If you have more than one child, you may even decide to create special routines with them individually and squeeze in some of that highly valued 1-1 parent and child time.