Much like eating healthy food or going to bed on time, brushing teeth properly is an activity that kids often resist. However, it can't be ignored, because brushing properly doesn't just benefit children when they're young- it sets the stage for a lifetime of healthy habits and good oral hygiene. If your children are giving you a hard time about brushing their teeth, it can be extremely frustrating. Before you blow your top, though, try these helpful tips to encourage your children to brush their teeth:
1. Model Good Behavior
Kids often take behavioral cues from their parents. Set a good example for them by not treating brushing your own teeth, or theirs, as a chore, but rather as a fun activity. Try brushing your teeth with them, showing them the right way and projecting excitement. They'll want to join in when they see how much fun you're having.
2. Try a Dissolving Agent
Dissolving agents are tablets that kids chew and can usually be obtained from pharmacies or your dentist. The agent then reacts by turning pink anywhere there is plaque. The color shows kids the need to brush and lets them know when they are doing a good job brushing, as well as indicating areas that need more attention.
3. Get Messy
There's no way around it—children love messes. In this case, that can work for you. When kids are brushing well, the toothpaste bubbles up and foams. The more foam, the better. Encourage kids to brush in a way that makes lots of bubbles. Having to clean up afterwards is a small price to pay for the lifetime of good oral health you're encouraging.
4. Offer a Choice
Let your children choose things like the color of their toothbrush or the brand or flavor of their toothpaste. Giving kids a choice invests them in the process and makes them feel like they have some control and a role to play.
5. Satisfy Curiosity
Children are often extremely curious. The most common question children ask is, "Why?" Answering this question in a way they understand gives them a good reason and may win them over. If you're looking for a good story, a simple Google search can lead you to good books or TV shows that explain in a simple, fun way why brushing teeth is important and how to do it correctly.
6. Make It Fun
Sometimes the problem is a child's natural aversion to being forced to do something they perceive as a chore rather than fun activity. To fix this, make brushing a fun activity. Try bringing in a stuffed animal to brush with them, timing brushing with a song or an egg timer, or making the brushing into a contest. Celebrate when they're done, and be sure to compliment them on what a great job they did.
7. Set Goals and Reward Positive Behavior
If kids have goals and know they are working towards rewards, they may be more willing to brush better. Make a chart, and let them mark off days with a fun sticker or by making a check. Reward them with something fun like a special activity or trip.
Remember, the key to promoting proper tooth brushing is all about turning brushing from a chore they are forced to do into a fun, important activity they want to do. In the end, encouraging this behavior in a healthy way is all that matters. If all else fails, bring in reinforcements. Hearing how fun and important brushing can be from someone other than parents, such as a favorite relative, family friend, or your dentist or hygienist may be all it takes to turn the tide. Remember, when children develop good oral hygiene habits, it sets them up for a lifetime of great teeth and easy checkups.