5 Tips for Helping Your Child Master Thorough Tooth Brushing
Coaching Kids on Great Dental Care Habits
Cavities are a common oral health problem in children, but the good news is most tooth decay is often 100% preventable. A low-sugar diet, twice-daily brushing sessions, daily flossing, and seeing a kids’ dentist every six months are the foundation for maintaining optimal oral health and a cavity-free smile.
Some kids take to brushing and flossing with ease, excitedly looking forward to their morning and nighttime routines. But for many others, dental care can take some getting used to, especially when they are learning how to brush independently.
Here are our 5 top tooth brushing tips for parents to practice with their children.
1. Start dental care early, even before your child has any teeth.
Did you know that dental care can begin as early as infancy? The sooner oral hygiene habits are started, the better! You can begin by cleaning your baby’s gums with a soft, damp washcloth after meals. Switch to an infant toothbrush with super-soft bristles as soon as your baby’s first tooth erupts. Flossing can start once your child has two adjacent teeth.
As for toothpaste use, we follow ADA guidelines, which recommend using only a rice grain–size smear of children’s fluoride toothpaste for kids three years of age or younger. Older kids can use a pea-sized amount, but take care to teach them to spit out their toothpaste instead of swallowing.
2. Lead by example, and make dental care sessions a family event.
After you teach your toddler how to brush, it’s important to keep up the momentum. We find that parents who brush with their children have an easier time helping their kids with proper brushing techniques, and the kids adopt these healthy habits much more quickly.
Brushing together is a handy way for parents to supervise their younger children’s brushing habits in a more subtle and fun manner, without kids feeling like they’re being watched. Seeing older siblings brushing and flossing can also be very encouraging for kids who are developing independent dental care habits.
3. Show your child fun, age-appropriate videos on proper tooth brushing.
Parents know how easily kids can soak up what they watch on TV or YouTube. They quickly learn their character’s favorite phrases and mimic scenes from their favorite cartoons. Use this to your advantage by finding children’s videos about dental care. YouTube is a great source for videos from Sesame Street, Blippi, and other kids’ shows featuring skits about brushing or trips to the dentist.
You can even find videos explaining exactly how to brush, including how to hold a toothbrush and move it around the teeth, all in language appropriate for your child. Coupled with your own guidance, this approach is really effective.
4. Make things fun and lively with timers, apps, or music.
Brushing twice a day and flossing once daily is the foundation of your child’s at-home dental care routine, but don’t forget to set a timer for two minutes! Many adults underestimate how long two minutes takes while brushing, and children often have an even more difficult time. We absolutely love the idea of using a simple sand timer, and we encourage parents to keep one in their child’s bathroom. You can find these timers on Amazon.
Two other options include using an app designed to time your child’s brushing session or playing two minutes of your child’s favorite song. Older kids or teens can simply use their phone’s timer.
5. Encourage interest in dental care by letting your child choose products.
Kids love to pick out their own dental care products when they go shopping, and it’s a surefire way of creating excitement and anticipation. Next time you go to the store, let your kids pick out their own toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouth rinses, flossers, etc. Having a couple of options to choose from is another useful trick for enticing a stubborn child to brush. Keeping two tubes of toothpaste or a few different toothbrushes allows your child to swap around their products and gives them something fun to focus on.
Your child’s dentist can guide you on which brands of products are best suited for your child. We can also help you find products designed for special needs kids with limited mobility or sensory sensitivities.
Ask your pediatric dentist for more ideas on getting your child excited about dental care.
If your child is having a tough time learning proper brushing techniques or is feeling a little stubborn about dental care at home, it can be helpful to have a professional figure explain why keeping teeth clean is important. Pediatric dentists and their team members are pros at teaching kids how to brush and floss in a fun, engaging way!
Call or use our online form to schedule your child’s appointment with the best pediatric dentists in Salem, OR. We look forward to helping your child look after their smile—now and in the future!