Brushing and flossing aren’t the most fun activities kids could be doing. Even many adults skip out on flossing, and sometimes brushing even when they know better. More the reason to have good oral hygiene habits instilled from a young age.
Different techniques work on different kids. So you may need to try a couple of these tips before one works. It is also important to supervise brushing until they are 8 or 9. Kids have a tendency to miss certain areas, like the inside surface and important back molars.
1) Try to make brushing fun
This can be done by making a song out of brushing, brushing to their favorite song, letting them pick their own toothbrush and toothpaste, and/or having a good time brushing with them. Be a good role model and show them how fun it is to brush your own teeth by laughing and singing while brushing and flossing. It will make them think they are missing out on a good time and want to join the fun
2) Let your child be independent
Some children don’t like things being done for them and to them. They like to do things on their own. However, if they’re young they will still need adult supervision and help to brush properly. To help them exert their independence, have them brush your teeth and then help them brush theirs. Also using the plaque disclosing mouthwashes to show were the plaque and food is on their teeth can help. After they attempt to remove the plaque, but fail to remove all of it, you can step in and ask if you can show them remove all of it. The plaque disclosing rinses can be found at pharmacies and dental offices.
3) Be a role model
Children often want to be just like their parents and do what adults around them are doing. It helps to brush and floss at the same time as your children so they can imitate you. Even if you have to brush again later because you haven’t finished eating for the night, keep a toothbrush in your child’s bathroom and brush with them. Being a good role model goes a long way.
4) Implement a reward system
Some parents find it useful to create a chart or calendar and give stickers for days their kids did an excellent job doing various activities, brushing and flossing being one of them. Also if the child has any sweets or snacks that day, have them promise to brush at night and if they fail to do a good job they will get no snacks or sweets the following day as a consequence.
Regardless of which method is chosen it is important to teach your kids that brushing will happen every day. It is important to be consistent. Letting them not brush one night because its late or they had a lot of activities that day will indicate that it is ok not to brush when they don’t feel up to the task. Eventually they will understand the reasons behind brushing, until then a little more effort will help make brushing and flossing more fun.
Dr Sara Ok, Dental Surgeon, T32 Dental Centre
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine