Here’s a statistic that might set your teeth on edge: One-third of children don’t brush their teeth every day. That’s one in three. It’s no wonder, then, that tooth decay is one of the most common diseases among children in the United States — five times more common as asthma, in fact. American dentists call it an “epidemic.” What gives?
Parents aren’t always to blame. Face it, brushing your teeth isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, especially when you’re a kid. There are a number of ways you can make brushing more fun, though. Here are five of them.
1. Establish a bedtime routine
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages the “Bath, Brush, Book, Bed” routine.
Each night 1) help your children to brush their teeth, 2) read a favorite book (or two), and 3) get to bed at a regular time each night. This helps your family establish nighttime routines that emphasize good oral health, early literacy, and healthy sleep habits.
There are many children’s books on tooth brushing you can read that will help them understand on their learning level.
2. Use an App
The latest technology makes brushing teeth so much more enjoyable than when you were a child. Games like Luca Lashes — available on iOS devices — can help kids clean their teeth properly.
Alternatively, the Disney Magic Timer app by Oral-B features popular Disney characters, which encourage kids to brush for longer. This is really important. Research shows that people who regularly brush their teeth only do it for 45 seconds — and that’s just not long enough to remove plaque, say dentists.
3. Create a Brushing Calendar
Place a homemade brushing calendar on your child’s bedroom wall as a visual reminder for brushing teeth. Alternatively, download one from the American Dental Association here. You can also use stickers that your child can place on the date every time they brush their teeth.
“Brushing calendars give children a visual cue and a sense of control — as well as progress toward a reward (positive reinforcement),” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Of course, a calendar may not work for a 2-year-old, but young children over age 3 may respond really well to this approach.”
4. Model Good Oral Hygiene
When your toddler’s teeth start to come in, buy a soft baby toothbrush or use a wet washcloth to gently clean their baby teeth after breakfast and at bedtime. You will have to help brush their teeth until they have the fine motor skills to do it themselves. They may especially need help with flossing. But as they grow older, you can explain the importance of dental hygiene to your child. And let them brush and floss their teeth next to you as you brush and floss your teeth. It is important to establish good oral hygiene habits early.
5. Buy a Fun Toothbrush
Toothbrushes come in various colors and designs, and choosing the right one will make brushing less of a chore. Brushes with your child’s favorite cartoon character, for example, will promote regular brushing.
You could also try flavored toothpaste. Some children don’t like regular mint toothpaste and might favor other flavors like strawberry bubblegum, but make sure that the toothpaste contains fluoride which will help keep your child’s tooth enamel healthy.
Getting your child to brush his or her teeth can be a challenge, but you can make brushing more fun by following the tips above. Establishing a routine, using apps, creating a brushing calendar, modeling good oral hygiene, and purchasing a fun toothbrush could change your child’s perceptions toward teeth brushing and reduce plaque and decay in the process.