Nannypro.com has a great blog post on ways to help teach your children how to brush as well as encourage them to brush on their own. All ten of these tips are simple and very easy to implement with your children’s routines.
- Lead by example – Kids love to emulate their parents, so leading by example is a must. Let your children watch you brush and floss and explain to them what you’re doing and why. They’ll love to feel like they’re able to something just like the grown-ups do.
- Start early – Children won’t be able to brush their teeth by themselves until the ages of 3 or 4, so you’ll have to do it for them until then. This will give them time to get used to the idea that this is a part of a normal daily routine and they’ll look forward to when they can do it on their own.
- Make it fun – Try to make brushing and flossing a fun activity and something to look forward to instead of just a chore. You can invent little games to play and be excited about it when they do a good job.
- Rewards – Be sure to reward kids when they achieve goals like brushing by themselves for the first time or not having to be reminded. Give them an extra bedtime story or let them stay up another 15 minutes to prove how grown-up they are.
- Plaque monsters – You can invent stories to help explain what happens if they don’t take care of their teeth. Tell them that after they eat food invisible plaque monsters are hiding in their teeth and they need to be brushed and flossed away.
- Give them choices – Get children involved in the dental hygiene process by giving them choices. Let them pick out their own toothbrushes and toothpaste, and keep a variety on hand so they don’t get bored. Floss and mouthwash even come in different fun colors and flavors that they can choose from.
- Music – It can be difficult to get kids to brush long enough, so music can help. Play their favorite song and tell them to keep brushing until the music stops. Pretty soon they’ll be brushing and flossing to the rhythm of the beat.
- Egg trick – Children have a hard time grasping the concept of why it’s so important to care for their teeth. Explain how a hard boiled egg is like a tooth because the hard shell is like enamel. Place the egg in vinegar for 2 days and let them see how the shell has softened and explain that’s what happens to teeth with acid and bacteria in the mouth.
- Apple cavities – Another experiment that helps explain cavities can be done with an apple. Cut a small chunk out of an apple and tell the kids it’s just like a cavity in a tooth. Set the apple somewhere so they can observe what happens over time. This will give them a visual example of how cavities rot the teeth just like the apple.
- Start off right – Make sure kids learn how to brush and floss properly from the very beginning and correct them until they get it right. Muscle memory will keep them doing it correctly for a lifetime instead of having to relearn later and try to break bad habits.
Teaching your kids to brush correctly and getting them into a brushing and flossing routine is just as important as bathing them. The earlier you start, the easier it is to get them to do it on their own later. In the long run, it all adds up to fewer major (and costly) dental appointments.