As adults we know why brushing our teeth is important, kids, not so much. No matter how much you try to explain good oral health, there will always be reluctant little brushers who see it as a pointless chore. Of course letting them skip brushing is out of the question, and brute forcing them to brush will lead to rebellion and tantrums. The best way to form healthy habits in your kiddos is to let them be involved every step of the way. This ups the chances that they will understand the importance of brushing and come to see it as kindness that they do for their body rather than an arbitrary night time ritual.
Let Them Watch You Brush
Simple but effective. Let your child see you brush, or brush at the same time as them. They can also practice on a doll at the same time you’re giving instruction. This normalizes brushing, puts you two on an equal footing and lets them be like the person they admire most (you)!
Let Them Pick Their Toothbrush
More than anything, kids want to feel like they have agency. Take them to the store and let them choose the toothbrush of their dreams. Character brushes (like Spider-Man, or Disney princesses) have the added advantage of implying that your child’s hero also brushes their teeth regularly.
Think Beyond Mint
Some children will simply never like the taste of mint, which makes toothpaste a drag. Look online or in local stores for alternative flavors of toothpaste. Chocolate and bubblegum are both popular (and dentist-approved) flavors. An extra advantage is that sometimes these toothpastes come in fun colors, or with sparkles!
Teach Them About Their Mouth
Why should your child brush their teeth? You know why - but do they? Books like Ready, Set, Brush by Che Rudko and The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss are both entertaining and have valuable information about why brushing is so important.
Act As If
This may seem obvious, but do not complain about brushing your own teeth or act as if brushing teeth is a chore. Try to use positive language to reinforce that this is a healthy and fun habit they should be excited about!
Photo by Kamaji Ogino
Sweeten the Deal
If all else fails, offering a reward in exchange for brushed teeth can work wonders. We are not saying that this is ideal...but we also understand that not all kids play by the same rules. If you must offer a bribe, try not to have it look like one. Maybe make dessert conditional on good oral health, or have the piece of chocolate be a Sunday night treat to reward a week of good brushing!
How to Talk to Your Child About Tooth Care
“Remember to brush your teeth”. It’s a pervasive slogan that could be said by anything from a favorite cartoon character to a well-meaning elementary school teacher. It’s a nice settlement, but woefully incomplete. When it comes to teeth, a quick once over with a toothbrush just isn’t enough. There is nuance to keeping teeth healthy, and very important steps that are not conveyed by the term “Brush your teeth.” As a parent you know how important it is to establish good habits at a young age. Brushing teeth correctly should be one of those habits! Explaining good tooth care doesn't have to be hard, just model it yourself and walk them through the steps to make a healthier smile!
Brush Front and Back:
Sometimes we get so distracted by making our smiles bright that we forget teeth have two sides! To keep chompers pillow-ready, make sure to brush the back of the teeth as well!
Tongue Needs to Be Clean Too:
Tongues do as much work as teeth and get messy in the same ways. But cleaning the tongue is very easy! After brushing, rinse off your toothbrush and give your tongue a gentle 30 second brush all over, or use a special tongue scraper!
Brush Twice a Day:
Good brushing takes only 4 minutes a day. Brush once after breakfast and once before bed to keep teeth strong and healthy at all times.
A Little Flossing Goes a Long Way:
Brushing is great, but when it comes to making your smile as brilliant as you are, you need some additional help. Food or plaque on the side of the teeth makes them heavier for us to carry and less healthy for your mouth. Flossing takes some getting used to, so ask your adult or your dentist to show you how to do it! Not everyone takes flossing classes like we fairies do!
Brush in Little Circles:
While it seems strange, brushing in a straight line doesn’t get your teeth as sparkly clean as brushing each tooth in a little circle. Human dentists discovered what we fairies have known for centuries: If you brush in a circle you not only clean your chicklets but also your gums! Think of it as keeping your tooth bed clean!
Cavities Are Great Teachers (Really!):
We have been saying a lot about perfect teeth...but the truth is, fairies love all teeth. We like healthy teeth best because that means you are keeping yourself healthy. While cavities are no fun, think of getting one as a learning experience. Let it teach you how to take better care of your teeth in the future!
Learn more about why baby teeth are important and what to do if you suspect a baby tooth cavity.
Brush to Music:
To keep those pearly whites as pearly and white as possible, brush for two minutes each time! Brush front and back while making sure that each tooth is well-cared for. We understand 2 minutes can seem like a long time, so we recommend finding a favorite song about that length and brushing until it ends! Need some song suggestions?