Now that your child is old enough to start brushing, how do you get him or her to make it a habit? And what can you do if your sweet baby is now a teen, and refuses even the most sensible advice like "brush twice a day"?
Why Is It Important To Brush a Baby's Teeth?
Even though your child will eventually lose her baby teeth, they serve an important role as placeholders for adult teeth to grow into their proper place. Healthy teeth also keep gums healthy, and after the baby teeth are gone, the gum health and dental hygiene habits built on them will remain. Finally, even baby tooth cavities will hurt, making it harder for you to keep your child's first trips to the dentist a positive experience. For all these reasons, getting your child used to keeping up with her oral hygiene is an important lesson.
While any amount of brushing is a victory when first getting your baby used to having her teeth brushed, you want to work up to at least 2 minutes, and make it a regular habit. If you need some help getting the ball rolling, we've compiled some tried and true tricks to help the habit stick.
Make Tooth Brushing Fun
There's nothing like brushing your teeth with Elmo or Barbie by your side, so let your toddler pick out his own toothbrush with his favorite character on it, or brush to your child's favorite song. And there's nothing to say you can't dance along, too. Try playing the theme from Moana or Trolls and before you know it you'll have a veritable musical number happening in your bathroom - and teaching your child that brushing her teeth can be fun, too.
Turn It Into Play
Does your little one dream of growing up? Let her play dentist with your teeth or model good hygiene for a doll. A little role reversal can do wonders for your little one's motivation. After all, if your toddler wants to be a good role model for Dolly, she's got to lead by example.
Allow Kids to Take Charge
"Would you like to brush your teeth now, or after your bath?" Kids like to test boundaries, and giving them a choice lets them exercise control while still getting those teeth clean. Just make sure you only give them choices you can accept them making. Not brushing is not an option.
Reward Good Behavior
It doesn't have to come to bribery. Letting your child watch her favorite show during tooth brushing time will both distract her and help form positive associations with tooth brushing time. Rewards also have a place as your kid ages up into a teen, although "five more minutes of Elmo" might have to turn into car and curfew privileges.
Appeal to Their Vanity
Older kids and teenagers especially, are concerned with how they are seen by others. You can leverage this by focusing on the cosmetic consequences of poor oral hygiene. Long term oral health might not be a thirteen-year-old's greatest concern, but having yellow teeth and bad breath right now will hit closer to home.
Lead by Example
If you take pride in your oral hygiene and make an effort, you can bet this won't go unnoticed by your child. Toddlers who idolize you will have a healthful habit to copy, and for teens this can become the default against which they rebel now, but fall back on in adulthood. Practice what you preach, and you'll find that the lessons sinks better.
If you need assistance with brushing or flossing your teeth please watch the provided video below by ADA.
Do you have a tip for getting your child to brush regularly? Let us know in the comments, and sign up for our newsletter to keep up to date on future helpful articles.