You would not put your child in the car without their seat belt, right? Putting a seat belt on is a good habit that we create with our children at a very early age. Once we get in the car we automatically go for the seat belt and buckle in because that’s what we were always taught. This same habitual concept can be applied to your get your kids to brush their teeth. It’s a good habit that will help your children stay healthy throughout their lifetime.
Twice-daily, you battle with your kids to get them to brush their teeth. It’s definitely a fight worth having. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tooth decay is still the most common chronic disease for kids ages 6-19. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to other health issues including speech delays, diabetes, dental pain, and infections. Read on to learn more about how to get your kids to brush their teeth.
Preventing Tooth Decay For Your Children
Tooth decay is actually entirely preventable! It all starts with making oral hygiene important at an early age and teaching your kids to brush their teeth.
You child will acquire good oral hygiene habits faster the earlier you introduce them. Parents and caregivers should help kids learn and practice these oral habits at home. The idea is to instill these habits early so that your child will not have oral health issues in the future.
You can learn more about tooth decay and signs you may have a cavity by reading our other blog post “Signs You May Have A Cavity”
How to Establish Good Oral Hygiene Habits with Kids?
Nearly one in five children under the age of five have experienced tooth decay, according to the “State of Little Teeth Report” from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). These numbers can seem pretty concerning but we want to ensure you that good dental habits and starting dental visits by age 1 can reverse or slow down the process of tooth decay in children.
Repetition is the key to establishing habits in children. Just like any other new habit, you need to have them practice it over and over. Below are some helpful tips based on the age of your child to create good oral health habits in your home:
- During infancy, you should wipe your child’s gums with a clean cloth twice a day prior to teeth breaking through.
- Once their teeth have come in (even if it’s just a single tooth), you should start brushing them every morning and night with a small bristled, soft toothbrush.
- Your child’s first dentist visit should be no later than their first birthday, or as soon as you see their first tooth break through their gums.
- 6 Years of Age and Younger
- If your child is 6 years old or younger, you should always monitor them while they brush and floss their teeth.
- Only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is needed for children this age.
- Show your child the proper way to brush their teeth. They should be shown how to keep their gums healthy by brushing along the gumline.
- Prior to your child being a proficient flosser, they will need to master the art of tooth brushing first. You should only focus on one thing at a time until your child is able to get it down.
- 10 Years of Age and Younger
- Children under ten years old typically still need help flossing their teeth.
- Ask your kid’s dentist if they recommend applying dental sealants. Applying dental sealants to the molars prevents 80% of cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Set A Good Example
You’ve probably heard the saying “practice what you preach.” This same concept should be used when teaching your child about oral hygiene. You should make good oral health habits for yourself! Like so many other things in parenting, children tend to act like you before they do what you say. So, make sure you’re a good role model with your oral health habits by brushing two times a day and flossing. When picking out a toothpaste, make sure you buy one with fluoride. Fluoride toothpaste has proven to have great effects on your teeth.
Ways to Motivate Good Oral Health Habits with Your Children
It doesn’t matter if you are 6 or 66, dentists recommend you brush your teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes at a time. The longer you brush your teeth = more plaque removal. At some point, we all have needed a little motivation to gain some helpful life habits. Sometimes, understanding the negative consequences of not brushing your teeth just isn’t enough for your children to keep brushing. Here are some ideas to give your kids that extra nudge they need:
- Many electronic toothbrushes for children come equipped with music that plays for two minutes or has a blinking light to indicate that their brushing time is over. You can also use an egg timer or a sand timer. Utilizing a sand timer can help challenge your child to brush their teeth until the sand reaches the bottom.
- Commercial Break Brush
- Have your child pick a show they want to watch on TV, make sure this show has commercials (obviously or else they won’t be brushing). Your child should brush a quadrant of their teeth during each 30-second commercial break. Their show should be back on by the time they are done.
- Brush DJ
- The free Brush DJ app allows you to play songs in your library for two minutes. It also lets you set a reminder to brush your teeth twice a day, to floss, gargle with mouthwash, and reminds you to visit the dentist.
- Utilizing positive reinforcement can help you get results as well. Offering a reward or creating a reward chart can encourage your children to want to brush their teeth for two minutes. This route requires you to praise your child afterward on their sparkly teeth or tell them how amazing their technique is.
- Here are some incentives you can try:
- Allow your child to stay up a few extra minutes.
- Extra screen time (this could be their iPad, Nintendo, TV, or anything with a screen.)
- Pick out the movie for family movie night.
- Don’t incentivize with candy or treats*
- New Toothbrush
- Every three months, you should let your child pick out their new toothbrush and toothpaste. Make sure to approve a selection of toothpastes prior to having them pick, otherwise they might pick an adult toothpaste.
- Toothbrush Tales
- While your child is brushing their teeth, try sharing a tooth-fighting glory story. Let your imagination run wild as you tell your children to look for cavity bugs!
- Family Brushathon
- Ok, “brushathon” is a word I just made up… but it sounds like it could be a thing. The concept is that a family that brushes together will have good oral hygiene habits together. Try having everyone in the household brush at the same time every morning and every night.
The “Egg-speriment” (Egg Experiment)
It is more effective and sometimes easier to show your children the effects of oral hygiene instead of just telling them. This is where the egg experiment can help! Demonstrating this simple experiment to your children will show them the benefits of a healthy diet and brushing.
The outer part of your teeth (tooth enamel) is very similar to the outer hard shell of an egg. They are not exactly the same, but they have a lot of similarities that will help you in this process:
- Both eggshells and tooth enamel change in color ranging from light yellow to white.
- Tooth enamel is mostly composed of carbonate; whereas eggshells are mostly made from calcium carbonate.
- Tooth enamel helps protect the pulp which houses blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. This is similar to the eggshell which protects what’s inside.
Materials Needed for the Egg Experiment
- Hard-boiled egg
- Can of dark soda like Coca-Cola or Pepsi
- Toothpaste with Fluoride
- A cup
- Place the hard-boiled egg in the cup
- Pour your dark soda over the egg in the cup and let the egg sit in the soda for one day (24 hours).
- After the egg has sat in the soda bath for a whole day, have your child remove the egg and examine it.
- Have your child take the toothbrush and apply the fluoride toothpaste to it. Instruct them to start brushing the egg.
Helpful tips: In a different version of this experiment, you can add an additional cup and fill it with either milk or water. You will do the experiment with soda as instructed above, then fill another cup with milk or water so your child can compare what happens to the egg after being submerged in the different types of liquids for a day.
Learning and Discussion
It is important to have educational discussions when trying to get your kids to brush their teeth. You should discuss these following topics once your child observes the way brushing can wash away the brownish film off the egg left by the soda:
- Ask your child why think the egg (the one that was in the soda) changed color?
- If you did the additional part of the experiment with one egg in soda and one in milk or water, ask your child why they think the eggs came out different colors.
- What do you think brushing does for our teeth?
- When we drink or eat sugary things, a sticky coating called “plaque” forms on our teeth.
- Plaque can lead to cavities if we don’t brush it away everyday.
- Teeth can be stained by the things we consume.
- Brushing and flossing help remove sugar, food, and bacteria from our teeth and gums.
Don’t give up parents, moms, dads, and caregivers. Understand that it is going to take some time for your children to establish good oral hygiene habits. If you make a consistent effort – then it will happen eventually. Lastly, remember to stay on top of your child’s dentist appointments to ensure a lifetime of good oral health!