Good oral hygiene is a lifelong habit; as a parent, it’s up to you to get your kid to brush at the first opportunity.
You can brush your little one’s teeth for the first two years, but how do you segue into helping your perfect angel maintain perfect teeth?
The best thing you can do is make tooth-brushing time fun. Some simple approaches will help you go beyond a timer and help your child take pride in her pearly whites.
Here are some great ways to transition to independent tooth brushing in a way your child will love.
Grab one of your child’s favorite toys with a mouth. Any toy is fine, just go for one that allows a small toothbrush to go inside.
Sit with your child and the toy and ask him or her to show you how this toy brushes their teeth. If your child gets a little violent, be sure to explain that being too rough with a brush can hurt. Say things like “Ow, my gums!” if your child jabs or scrapes with force.
Then, talk about how our mouths are sensitive and we have to be careful when we brush. Demonstrate on the toy how to make soft circles to keep teeth clean. Hand the brush back to your child and let him or her try again.
Praise any progress you see and be specific. “Oh, I like how you brushed your monster’s fangs from top to bottom. Now he won’t get any cavities!” That positive reinforcement helps your child take pride in their brushing abilities.
Make sure to use that same positive feedback when he or she takes to brushing without help. You want them to keep up the great work.
Plenty of brands have cute, colorful options for your child to choose from when it’s time to pick out the first toothbrush. Look for favorite characters, bright colors, and great flavors to help get him or her excited about this new thing in their life.
Buy two or three to get started so you have backups in case anything goes wrong with the first one. Look for soft bristles, a kid-friendly grip, and a nice, small size. Don’t feel pressured into buying anything fancy like an electric toothbrush - remember, this is a practice brush.
If your little one wants something extra fancy, you can use the next step to help him or her earn a special brush.
This one is more hands-on, but it’s worth it. First, ask your child what he or she would love to have as a special treat on the weekend. It can be a new toy, a favorite ice cream, or anything within reason. Then, mark a small whiteboard or paper chart with days of the week with a prize at the end.
If you aren’t crafty, look for a readymade chart online. There are tons of fun ones designed to get kids excited about brushing.
Set up an official toothbrushing time for you and your child. It’s important to brush together so you can keep an eye on how your little one uses the new brush and toothpaste and time them so that each session lasts two minutes. Explain that you are going to brush your teeth together and that every day he or she does a great brush for two minutes, you’re going to put a special sticker on that day of the week.
After seven stickers, your child gets the prize of his or her choice.
Whenever you get the chance, tell your child why it’s important to have good brushing habits. Make sure he or she knows that food can hide in tiny corners of our mouth and turn into painful cavities.
Make sure to say how much easier it is to go to the dentist with healthy teeth. When we take care of our teeth on our own, the dentist doesn’t have to do so much. But, if we don’t brush, we get cavities and other issues that are not fun.
You can set up a tooth-brushing activity like this one to show your child how important it is to get between all the little gaps and behind the molars to keep everything clean. Make sure to do it together or as a family to get a conversation going.
One of the best things you can do for your child makes time to brush together twice a day. Create a routine together and do it every day, even when you’re slammed. Remember that kids respond to eye contact and positive reinforcement more than anything, so give your child both whenever you see him or her brush well.
Check out your favorite music or podcast app for silly songs, short stories, or other fun audio options to add to your ritual. Try to avoid video - get your child in the habit of looking in the mirror while he or she brushes.
Want more fun ideas for how to help your family care for their teeth? Come see us at your local Smile Centre for your check-up, consultations, and more.
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