Most parents know that it’s important to start brushing baby teeth as soon as they poke through the gums, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy!
Worse, many parents have a hard time establishing a dental routine for their children even as they get older. Short attention spans and picky behavior can make it difficult to encourage kids to practice oral hygiene.
That doesn’t mean that your child’s daily brushing and flossing should be a chore. In fact, there are plenty of things parents can do to make their child’s experience easy and even fun. Let’s take a look at some simple ways to improve your little one’s dental routine.
Set a Good Example
Kids love following in the footsteps of their parents, and they’ll often mimic everything they see. Why not use that to your advantage?
A great way to instill good tooth-brushing habits in your child is to engage in those habits yourself! Though it isn’t always easy with some parents’ busy schedules, we recommend brushing and flossing your teeth with your child when possible.
This allows you to lead by example. It’s also a good opportunity to monitor their brushing habits while you’re at it. Until your children are old enough for you to trust that they can handle brushing and flossing on their own, doing it alongside them can help.
Read Stories About Oral Health
There are children’s books on everything these days, and you might be surprised by how engaging books about brushing and flossing can be! If your little one loves it when you sit down and read to them, try opening up one of these great stories about brushing, flossing, and oral health.
Not only can the right book become a beloved reading journey for you and your child, but it can also offer your child helpful knowledge about the care of their teeth. From dentist visits to losing a tooth to what cavities are, these books can make learning fun. Even better, referencing them when you prompt your child to brush their teeth can make that habit feel more exciting.
Experiment With Toothpaste and Floss
We all know kids can be picky eaters, but it’s worth considering how picky children can get about their toothpaste, too! The taste, color, and texture of your kid’s toothpaste can make or break their cleaning experience. This is especially true of children with sensory issues.
If your child doesn’t seem to like the option you’re using, try switching to one of these kid-friendly toothpastes. You can also ask us for more specific recommendations when your child comes in for a cleaning. Whatever option you choose, make sure it has fluoride as its main active ingredient.
When it comes to floss, kids can be just as picky. If your child is old enough to floss on their own but doesn’t yet have the dexterity they need, disposable floss picks can be a great idea. For kids that prefer string floss, you can try different flavors to make the habit a bit more enjoyable for them.
Though mouthwash isn’t as crucial as brushing or flossing, it can be a good way to eliminate plaque as well. Note that kids under the age of six shouldn’t use mouthwash, though our pediatric dentists can help you understand when your child is ready for it. If your child uses this cleaning solution, make sure you’re using a gentle kid’s mouthwash, and try experimenting with different alcohol-free flavors.
Make Brushing Fun
Kids may not always be excited to brush their teeth, but it’s important to make sure it never feels like a chore. Do what you can to make the experience fun for your little ones.
Let your child pick out a fun toothbrush, for example, or have them brush the teeth of their favorite doll or stuffed animal when they’re done with their own. Start a two-minute teeth-brushing dance party, tell them a quick story, or pretend you’re hunting the “sugar bugs” that live in their teeth.
You can also reward kids for good behavior if they brush as planned. Set up a chart in the bathroom, and give your child a sticker every time they brush their teeth.
You may want to reward them with screen time, an extra few minutes of fun before lights out, or anything else you know they’ll love. However, avoid giving out sugary snacks as a reward, as that defeats the purpose of brushing!
Play a Song or Use a Timer
Even for adults, it’s tough to track how long we’ve been brushing our teeth. However, the two-minute brushing rule isn’t arbitrary: it really helps you reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth!
With small kids, who are more distractible, it’s even more important to make sure they’re present and focused on brushing for two minutes. There are plenty of ways to do this, depending on your child’s age and interests:
- Encourage them to use an hourglass timer you’ve placed in the bathroom
- Play or sing a two-minute brushing song
- Use a fun tooth-brushing timer app on your phone
- Use a child-friendly toothbrush that plays music and shuts off after two minutes
When it comes to cavity prevention, every second of your child’s brushing time counts!
Create the Perfect Dental Routine
Every child’s dental routine will look different, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Adapting the routine to your child’s needs and preferences can help you instill good brushing and flossing habits while turning oral hygiene into something they’ll get excited about. With a bit of forethought, you can help your child clean and protect their baby teeth until their adult ones come in!
Don’t forget that our pediatric dentistry team is here to help as well. We’re proud to be the trusted partners of parents throughout the Shepherdsville and Mt. Washington areas when it comes to ensuring healthy smiles. To schedule a cleaning or learn how we can help protect your child’s teeth, contact us today.