How to Encourage Children to Brush Their Teeth
The benefits of proper oral hygiene will never really be known by those who do it well. Poor oral hygiene leads to unsightly teeth, cavities, pain, gum disease and tooth loss. Those who experience such things due to years of not brushing or flossing correctly long to go back and do it right. The kids that get started out right with taking care of their teeth only have to deal with dental issues caused by genetics. Since good oral care does not come with a direct recognizable benefit, the most powerful encouragement to perform the daily ritual of brushing, flossing and using oral rinses comes with pattern reinforcement and comparison.
1. Using the Before-and-After Picture Books at the Dentist
Typically, a dental office has a brochure or three-ring binder in the waiting room filled with success stories of dental restoration that have graphic before-and-after pictures. The intent of the pictures is to market the services to those who have the same dental problems. Parents can use the pictures to educate children as to what happens when teeth are not properly cared for. Look for examples of restorative work done due to decay. Talk about the cost using real world examples the child can understand such as comparing the cost of fillings, extractions and tooth replacement to buying game consoles, new bicycles and other items on their wish list.
2. Plaque Disclosing Tablets
It used to be common for children to learn the basic oral hygiene of brushing and flossing in school. The prize every child walked away with was a new toothbrush and a tube of tooth paste. Everyone in the class also got to try out plaque disclosing tablets. First, the children were taught the proper way to brush. Then, they brushed their teeth. After that, plaque disclosing tablets were used to show how much plaque remained on the teeth and where it was located. Class time typically prevents every child from understanding the meaning of the use of the tablets. It was just cool to have your teeth stained with the dye that sticks to the plaque. Parents can recreate the experience by taking time to fully discuss brushing technique. The plaque disclosing tablets are available at pharmacies and online.
3. Picking Out a Toothbrush
Make a special shopping trip to pick out a toothbrush. It should be an event to punctuate its importance. Instead of just picking up a toothbrush on a grocery or pharmacy run, make it a special trip to pick out the tool that is number one in protecting teeth. It is more important than the toothpaste! It does not matter if it is battery powered or manual. What matters is that it is approved by the American Dental Association, has soft bristles and is something the child can identify with. Encourage a child to pick a favorite color or animated character themed toothbrush. The goal is to make it a personal experience.
4. Picking Out the Toothpaste
Flavor is paramount even though toothpastes use marketing themes geared toward children. The latest movie hero might have his or her face plastered on the box, but the taste might not be what the child likes or can tolerate. Adult toothpastes usually have strong minty tastes due to their so-called breath freshening qualities. Children often prefer milder fruity flavors for toothpaste. Parents should try their children’s toothpaste to see if it burns or tingles due to minty flavorings. These are typically a turn off to brushing for young children. They can switch to the minty fresh ones during the dating years.
5. Make Flossing Easy
It may seem worthless to floss baby teeth that will eventually fall out, but learning how to do it right and getting into the ritual of doing it should be started early. Flossing should be monitored until parents are confident there is no risk of the child playing with the floss or swallowing it. Avoid the string floss types from years ago. Even the waxed varieties are harsh when compared to the ribbon floss types that slide easily and comfortable between teeth.
Finally, build a rapport with a family dental office that has a dentist and hygienist experienced in dealing with children. Positive reinforcement of good oral care practices goes a long way when it is given by a professional. The parents should encourage good oral care, and the positive reinforcement feedback should come from the dentist and hygienist. Even areas that are lacking should come with positive encouragement. Take time to discuss these matters with the dentist and hygienist before the checkup and cleaning appointments. Make use of every teachable moment.