Teaching your children about dental hygiene is, like so much of parenthood, a real challenge. It is important however, to try and get your toddler into a tooth-brushing routine, even though it may be a bit of a battle at times.
We’re not going to pretend it happens over night but here are a few tips on teaching your kids how to take care of those pearly whites:
- Let your child choose his or her toothbrush. They may want a particular colour, a character based one, one that’s the same as yours or perhaps even an electric one.
- Likewise with toothpastes, there is little point in trying to force a child to use a strong, minty toothpaste if they don’t like the taste. (Under 2s shouldn’t have flouride in their toothpaste anyway.)
- Encourage good brushing habits by having them yourself. Brush your teeth together with your child using good technique so that your child will mirror you.
- Encourage your child to use a gentle circular motion on their teeth and make up noises and songs to make it fun. Make sure your child works up lots of bubbles with the toothpaste.
- Your child will probably love the opportunity to spit into the sink! Encourage this, and teach them to swish and rinse their mouth out with water or a child-friendly mouthwash too.
- Older children may enjoy the ‘breath of death’ game where they breathe on you and you pretend to fall over if they haven’t brushed properly and their breath is smelly!
- Take a trip to the dentist as a family. Sometimes encouragement from someone in a white coat counts for more than anything mummy or daddy can say!
- Chewable toothbrushes are good for little ones who refuse to brush their teeth. As they chomp on them, their teeth get cleaned and gums soothed.
- Make brushing the teeth into a game. Perhaps name individual teeth… “Don’t leave Charlie out” etc. Or maybe let your child imagine they are a dentist and let them brush your teeth, or maybe you can pretend they are blinding you with the whiteness of their teeth. Get creative!
- Plaque disclosing tablets that show up stains on the teeth can be useful to show older children how much tooth brushing helps get rid of decay inducing plaque.
- Don’t forget about flossing! When children’s teeth start to sit close together (anytime between 2-6 years) it is a good idea to introduce flossing. Do this gently for them until they have the dexterity to do it themselves (around 10 years old.)
- Try not to worry too much if your child doesn’t get the whole tooth brushing thing straight away and generally keep the levels of sugar and sweets in your child’s diet to a minimum. Dentists say that tooth brushing is something most young children don’t do well until they are older.