Kids are wriggly at the best of times. At worst, trying to get your children to brush their teeth can trigger a full-blown tantrum.
You might not think it’s essential for your child to brush their baby teeth. They’re going to fall out anyway, right? But actually, if your kids don’t brush their baby teeth twice a day, they risk:
- tooth decay
- gum disease
- pain and discomfort
- problems with eating
- problems with speaking
- building bad dental hygiene habits
- problems with the eruption of permanent teeth.
So how can you encourage your small people to brush their teeth?
Here are 5 tips and tricks to help you win this twice-a-day battle.
1. Build good oral hygiene habits early
Most children under 6 don’t have the fine motor skills needed to brush their teeth effectively. They’ll need your help. But they can still build good oral hygiene habits early.
Even before your children’s baby teeth erupt, wipe their gums with a soft, damp cloth, once in the morning and once at night. This will help prepare them for the sensation of having their teeth brushed. Once their teeth start coming through, switch to a toothbrush. When their teeth start to touch, you can begin flossing.
2. Choose the right toothpaste and brush
It’s important to use toothbrushes, toothpaste (for children over 18 months) and flossers designed for children. This will make the experience more comfortable for them, (and hopefully) less of a drama. For example, kids’ toothbrushes have small heads made to fit small mouths, and soft bristles which are gentle on gums and milk teeth.
To help your child do a good job and have more fun, you could give them an electric toothbrush, which emulates accurate brushing. Kids over the age of 3 should be safe to use an electric brush, under supervision.
Our advice on toothpaste, is:
- children under the age of 18 months shouldn’t use toothpaste
- from 18 months to 6 years, use a pea-sized drop of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste
- from 6 years and up, use a pea-sized amount of standard fluoride toothpaste.
As for flossing, make sure kids use interdental flossers without sharp edges.
[IMAGE IDEA: Can the client provide a photo of the type of flossing tool they’d recommend children use.]
Give your kids the fun and the responsibility of choosing their own toothbrush and toothpaste. Children’s toothbrushes come in a range of colours and themes. There’s bound to be a brush with their favourite cartoon character to get them excited.
3. Set a good example
Kids love to mimic their parents, so set a good example by brushing and flossing regularly.
Even if your toothless children just watch you brush your teeth, it helps them build good habits. When they’re old enough to use a toothbrush (even if they lack the skills to brush effectively), brush your teeth as a family. You can make this twice-daily routine more fun by mirroring your kids’ brushing. Or if you’re feeling particularly daring, let them brush your teeth while you brush theirs.
4. Make toothbrushing fun
Here are 9 things you can try to make toothbrushing more fun for your kids.
- Use props like dolls and stuffed animals to roleplay toothbrushing.
- Play your kids’ favourite song or a song specifically about brushing their teeth. (You can try singing too!)
- Use toothbrushing books and apps to teach your kids about brushing and make it more enjoyable.
- Come up with your own stories about toothbrushing.
- Set a sand timer (preferably one with colourful sand) and challenge them to brush until time’s up.
- Reward kids for consistent brushing and flossing.
- Get your kids to clean their teeth during the ad breaks of their favourite shows.
- If they get bored of brushing in the bathroom, try getting them to brush their teeth in a different room or space.
- Get the Tooth Fairy to write them a note encouraging them to brush their teeth.
5. Take a fun trip to the dentist
Believe it or not, visiting a dental practice can be fun. Generally, an oral health therapist (OHT) sees the little ‘uns. And a ‘ride in the chair’ can break the ice and help them settle. If your child is very apprehensive we’ll offer them a plastic mouth mirror to hold and keep. This let’s the OHT show your child what they’re doing and the equipment they’re using.
Our OHTs love to share toothbrushing technique with interested kids, and every child is offered a balloon model at the end of their appointment.
A trip to the dentist may also reveal underlying issues you’re not aware of. For example, sensitive teeth could be causing your child pain or discomfort when they brush, which could explain why they put up a fight at teeth cleaning time. Your dentist will determine the source of the problem and suggest products and practices that can help.
We recommend booking a dental appointment after your child’s first birthday, even if they don’t have any teeth.
3 Steps for brushing little kid’s teeth
Cleaning your small child’s teeth may not be a smooth experience. Here’s what you can do to make it easier and more comfortable for both of you.
Step 1: Find a comfortable position, usually with your child sitting on your lap facing away from you.
Step 2: Rest your child’s head against your body and cup their chin with one hand.
Step 3: Brush their teeth along the gum line on both inside and outside surfaces. Work gently in small circles. On the chewing surfaces, use back-and-forth brushing motions.
How long should kids brush their teeth?
We recommend that your children brush their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day, once in the morning and once at night before bed.
Should your children rinse after brushing?
We recommend not rinsing with water after brushing. Ask your children to spit out the toothpaste when they’re done brushing. The small amount of toothpaste that remains in their mouth will protect their teeth.
It’s never too early to build good oral hygiene habits
The sooner your children develop good toothbrushing and flossing routines, the better.
Fun routines encourage them to take care of their teeth, and help avoid tooth decay and gum disease.
After more tips and tricks?
Check out our article on caring for your children’s teeth and accessing free dental care for children in Australia.