For most parents, teaching their children good oral hygiene is a battle they fight twice a day. But as many health experts point out, it’s a battle you must fight.
Tooth decay, while being mostly preventable, is the most common chronic disease amongst children aged 6-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to experts, poor oral hygiene is closely associated with a wide range of adverse consequences including infections and problems with speech, eating, and learning.
That’s why it is essential for parents to give their kids proper oral hygiene education during their formative years of life.
Here are some ways to make brushing a more enjoyable and regular part of your kid’s daily routine!
Check if underlying gum sensitivity is stopping them from brushing
Not every child dislikes brushing their teeth because they don’t think it’s particularly fun; some might avoid daily brushing because of an underlying problem.
If your toddler has sensitive teeth or gums, this can make brushing painful.
Be sure to ask your child if they are experiencing discomfort or pain during brushing and if they are, make sure they are not being too rough on their teeth when brushing. Also, consult a dentist like the Australian Dental Specialists if the issue persists – if oral health problems like root canal infections aren’t treated, the consequences can build up quickly. Delaying dental problems is never a good idea.
Reward good oral hygiene habits to motivate your kids
Rewarding your child for brushing their teeth can be one of the most effective ways to make them more compliant and promote good oral health. This is called operant conditioning, which is a well-studied psychology concept which says a behaviour that’s rewarded will increase in frequency.
The reward that will work the best will vary depending on your kid’s interests and age.
A few ideas about rewards for good oral hygiene include allowing your child to stay up half an hour longer than usual, reading them their favourite bedtime story, or playing a video game with them after they brush their teeth.
You can get even more creative and design a reward system or chart for greater weekly rewards. Every time your young one brushes their teeth without being told to do so, they get a point or sticker.
If your child earns a full 7 days worth of stickers or points, they qualify for a prize. The longer they keep the streak going without breaking it, the bigger the rewards.
This can transform a relatively boring part of the day into a friendly competition if you have more than one kid at home.
Just be sure to not offer unhealthy rewards such as candy or other sugary items that can cause dental caries and make brushing ineffective.
Make it fun
As adults, brushing your teeth can feel like just another “chore” you have to do regularly. But that’s only because we’re thinking as grown-ups!
If you look at the world through the eyes of a child, you can turn the mundane task of brushing your teeth into an enjoyable experience.
Try putting on some upbeat songs for at least two minutes (the recommended time for brushing) so your child can have fun while brushing. It helps pass the time and makes brushing a much more enjoyable experience for children.
Let your child pick their own toothbrush and toothpaste
If you’ve walked across the oral care aisle at grocery stores, you’ve probably noticed all kinds of bright, colourful, kid-centric products with popular cartoon characters on them. It might even look like the toy section to you.
Bring your child with you to the store and let them choose the toothpaste and toothbrush they would like to use. You’d be surprised how much this can motivate young children to take better care of their oral health!
Make it a group activity
Kids love mimicking the behaviour of adults, especially their parents. You can use this to your advantage by making brushing a group activity.
Lead by example and show them that you take oral health seriously and that they should be taking it seriously too! If you’re feeling brave, you can even let your child brush your teeth while you brush theirs.
You can also make funny faces while brushing to make each other laugh if you want to make it a more enjoyable experience. This will turn brushing into a bonding experience and improve your relationship with your child. Here are more ideas for bonding with your child.
Use their imagination to your advantage
Every child loves getting money from the tooth fairy. If your toddler refuses to brush twice a day regularly, consider placing a note from the tooth fairy in the bathroom. Let them know that the tooth fairy is watching them and that there will be no payment for naughty kids who don’t brush their teeth properly.
A small lie like this doesn’t hurt anyone and if it can help your child practice good oral hygiene, it’s definitely a win!
Make brushing a daily routine
Adults are more likely to keep up healthy habits when they incorporate them into their daily routine. And kids are no different.
If you can convince your child to brush daily after breakfast and before bed each night, they’ll eventually start doing it on their own without being instructed to do so.
If your child is in elementary or preschool, ask the institution if they make children brush their teeth after lunchtime.
If they don’t, try to convince them to add it to their daily routine. It’s a good way to maintain good oral hygiene and a great learning experience. Because when your toddler sees other children doing it, they will start believing that brushing is cool!
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