Parents, we hear you. Not every kid is excited about brushing their teeth. This blog post is for you—and for any parents who want their kids to enjoy brushing!
Proper dental hygiene can be an enjoyable part of the morning and bedtime routines. We have compiled a list of games and tips to help parents (and kids!) learn to love keeping their mouths healthy at home, starting with those incredibly important baby teeth. Since regular dental appointments are also an important part of keeping their mouths healthy, we’ve included tips to make dental appointments fun for kids (and parents) as well.
Start brushing kids’ teeth early.
Even before babies have teeth, it is important to keep the gums clean. Use a soft, wet washcloth or gauze to wipe their gums. This can be done anytime of the day, but if you stick to a morning and evening routine, it will become a natural habit for you and baby. This can also be soothing during teething. Once their teeth start coming through the gums, gently rubbing them with a soft-bristled brush twice a day. Avoid putting infants to bed with a bottle, as doing so can cause tooth decay.
Early care for gums and teeth helps establish a healthy routine and helps baby teeth stay healthy. Research has shown that healthy baby teeth also play an important role in developing healthy, strong adult teeth.
Help with brushing until they are 2 years old (or older).
Kids don’t develop the proper dexterity (hand, eye, tooth coordination) for brushing until they are two years old or older. It is good to promote independence while remembering that kids still need help. If they are resistant to help with brushing, do a “check-up” when they are done in the bathroom. During the “check-up,” take the toothbrush and lightly brush hard-to-reach areas. Make them feel good about their effort.
Teach them the right way to brush.
There is a right way to brush and learning this healthy habit can help provide a life time of healthy teeth. Teach kids to brush their teeth gently with a soft-bristled brush twice a day for a full two minutes each time. Show kids how to use wide circular strokes, as well as up and down, on all surfaces of their teeth. Then show them how to floss after brushing to get the sides of each tooth that the brush could not reach. Your dentist or hygienist would be happy to show them too- feel free to ask!
As a reminder, a longer time brushing is much better than forceful brushing. Brushing too hard can damage tooth enamel or cause sore gums, which will make brushing uncomfortable. Brush gently for 2 minutes 2 times per day.
Let them choose their toothbrush and toothpaste.
If possible, take your kids shopping or shop online together for their toothbrush and toothpaste so they can choose products they want to use (like their favorite colored toothbrush or a character-themed toothpaste). This engages them, promotes an opportunity to feel independent, and may help them look forward to their brushing time.
Use apps and games to make tooth brushing fun.
The internet is full of coloring pages, games and apps designed specifically to help kids understand enjoy tooth care. Aquafresh has a brush time app that makes brushing fun—and keeps them brushing for the full two minutes. Colgate has fun games for kids of every age.
Make tooth brushing a game.
If you want to make tooth brushing fun, make a game out of it. Set a timer or play a song for two minutes to help them keep brushing. Have them teach someone (you, a sibling, a friend, a grandparent) how to brush, which will reinforce what they’ve learned. For a fun twist, bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal into the bathroom. Kids can have fun “brushing” their favorite buddy’s teeth just like they brush their own.
Brush your teeth.
Kids mimic role models—even when it comes to tooth brushing. Brush your teeth in front of your kids. If your kids are nervous about going to the dentist, show them that dentist appointments aren’t scary. Take them along to the dentist and ask the dentist to make them part of the experience.
Choose the right dentist.
Don’t let a bad dentist ruin a lifetime of dental appointments. Carefully select a dentist that is good with kids and makes kids look forward to their next appointment. Ask your friends and family for recommendations or tour local dentists to see their facilities and meet the staff.
Practice dentist appointments with your kids.
Some kids do better at dentist appointments when they know what to expect. Play a game of pretend dentist appointment with your child. Include a favorite doll or stuffed animal in the game; your child can be the patient or the dentist. Answer all their questions and tell them what happens at a dentist appointment. Remind them that they can bring their favorite doll or stuffed animal to their appointment.
There are many children’s books about tooth brushing and visiting the dentist. For ideas of good books about the dentist and tooth brushing, talk to a librarian or ask for recommendations online. If your kids have a favorite character, find a book with the character and check it out from the library. Read the book with your kids often before the day of their dentist appointment.
Plan for the dentist appointment.
Most kids have a favorite toy, such as a stuff animal, or blanket that calms them. Take the favorite toy along to the dentist appointment; ask the dentist if the child can hold it during the appointment. If kids are nervous about the dentist, come up with a game (i.e. deep breaths, silly songs, etc.) that helps them calm down. Practice the game at home so they are familiar with it before their appointment.
Speak positively about the dentist and the importance of keeping teeth healthy. Kids are very smart and can sense when their parents are nervous. Do your best to not let any anxieties you may have about the dental appointment show. Smile. The goal is for the dental appointment to be a positive experience for everyone.