Although it’s true that your child’s baby (or primary) teeth will eventually be placed under their pillow for the Tooth Fairy (check out our blog post about cool Tooth Fairy ideas), they still need to be well taken care of! Baby teeth need to be healthy not only so they don’t get painful cavities, but also because they hold the spots for permanent (or secondary) teeth. If those spots aren’t being protected through good brushing habits the spaces could affect how your child’s permanent teeth grow.
At South Davis Pediatric Dentistry in Bountiful, Utah we are here to help you teach your child that brushing can be fun with these simple steps!
What exactly is a “proper brushing habit?”
Before we get started on how to make brushing more fun for our kids, let’s brush up on how to do it. A proper brushing habit includes brushing at least twice a day for two minutes: once in the morning and once at night.
A good way to remember to brush for 2 minutes is to divide up your teeth into four sections and spend 30 seconds on each to make sure you get every tooth front, bottom, and back as clean as possible. Don’t forget that a good tooth brushing habit also includes flossing as a necessity for a great smile.
So how do I get my children excited to brush their teeth twice a day?
So you have the bubblegum flavored toothpaste and Spiderman toothbrushes, but children just don’t seem that interested in brushing their teeth. Even that flashing toothbrush only holds any novelty for so long. Brushing is so important, but how can you make sure your kid not only brushes his teeth regularly AND enjoys it? By putting on your creative thinking cap you can channel your inner kid, clown, song master or whatever you need to make brushing a fun and most importantly, effective activity.
Cartoons and videos to the rescue!
Most children’s TV shows are meant to teach our kids about important things like friendship and sharing in an entertaining way. Naturally shows on kid-based channels will make a few episodes that teach about teeth cleaning and good dental hygiene. Watch these shows with your kids and show them that all of their favorite superheroes and characters need to brush their teeth.
Popular dental brands like Aquafresh and Colgate have kid sections on their websites with fun, educational videos to teach children about the importance of brushing and most importantly how to brush. Colgate.com’s Dr. Rabbit and the Legend Tooth Kingdom videos are really fun and use a magical kingdom to teach kids how important it is to brush well and floss everyday.
Play brushing video games
There are also many fun dentistry games for kids to play online. Mydentistgames.com features many fun games for kids of all ages. This site has a Barbie dentist game that has your kid brush each tooth to get rid of sugar bugs. There are also games where you play as dentist and have to get the cavities out of SpongeBob or Dora’s teeth. Learninggamesforkids.com is another website that has a lot of fun tooth themed games for kids to play including jigsaw puzzles and matching games.
In addition to the videos by Colgate, these sites also feature a variety of fun games. Colgate has their games split up into age groups to make sure that each game is age appropriate.
Time flies for us adults; we never seem to have enough time in the day to do everything we want. For a kid, time can drag on. They have so much of it. Remember how long one whole minute used to seem? In kid world, just a few seconds can seem like minutes! A timer keeps them grounded and lets your child know exactly how long they’ve been brushing.
Set the timer for 30 seconds for them to brush the front of their teeth, and repeat twice again for the back and the bottoms of their teeth. Set it for a final 30 seconds to go over their teeth and tongue to get rid of any extra bacteria and food particles. By breaking up brushing into four separate 30 seconds spurts, it makes it seem shorter to the kid even though they spend more time brushing than they would without the timer. Plus getting a special timer that makes an appearance only when they’re practicing great dental health can make the process seem more special for your child.
Make tooth brushing a magical time by making up stories for your kids while they brush. The evil bacteria monsters are destroying Tooth Town and it’s up to your child to brush them away. Your son could be a hunter and needs to check each tooth in his hunt for cavity monsters. Or maybe your daughter’s teeth are the princesses of tooth kingdom and need to be kept clean against cavities.
You can also read them toothy tales while they brush. SpongeBob, Dora, and Barbie all have books that have the main characters going to the dentist and practicing good oral hygiene.
Make it competitive
Healthy and friendly competition can be a good incentive for good brushing. If you have more than one child, just simply count up how many “sugar bugs” they get rid and see who gets the most. The “winner” gets a small prize like a dollar store toy or a sticker. Make sure everyone gets a turn to win so it stays fun and fair.
Another fun competition can have the kids brush until the end of the 2 minutes without stopping. Whoever stops first, loses. Giving prizes for brushing without being asked is also a good way to provide a friendly competition between children and even their parents.
There are lots of ways you can have your child role play while they brush their teeth. Your kiddo could be a sugar bug exterminator by using their trusty “bug glue” (toothpaste) and “bug sweeper” (toothbrush). Or your child can pretend he’s a superhero. A simple towel or cloth can turn your kid into a caped crusader against cavities and fight against the evil villain Tooth Decay and his sugary minions.
Another fun game you can play with your child is have them pretend they’re a hippopotamus or lion with a great big mouth to open wide so you, as the animal dentist can get in and brush their teeth for them. Have your kid roar like a lion to get their mouth open wide.
Reversing roles could be another fun activity for you and your kid. Instead of brushing your kids teeth, why not let them brush yours? Maybe you could be the hippo or lion and let your kid have a blast while getting your teeth brushed for you. Just remind your kid to be gentle yet thorough!
Making oral hygiene fun is an important activity that not only promotes good habits in children, but can be a good opportunity for parents to connect with their kids in meaningful ways. Remember to involve your kids, have them hold the toothbrush or squeeze the toothpaste out. Most importantly, remember that examples speak louder than any words or games. Make sure your kid sees you brushing and liking it!