Make Toothbrushing Fun!
February is National Children's Dental Health Month and presents the perfect opportunity for parents to remind themselves and their children about the importance of good oral hygiene. Not only does regular brushing and flossing prevent cavities and freshen breath; maintaining healthy teeth and gums can lower the risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
Dentists recommend that children brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day, and that parents start flossing their child's teeth daily as soon as two teeth emerge that touch. Here are a few ways you can instill good oral hygiene habits in your little ones and make toothbrushing fun!
- Give them choices. Let your child pick out his or her own toothbrush and toothpaste. Toothbrushes come in a variety of colors - some with well-known and beloved characters - and there are a variety of kid-friendly toothpaste flavors available, including berry and bubble gum. Take your child shopping and let your child choose his or her favorite!
- Experiment with kid-friendly methods for flossing. Floss sticks or picks may be easier than regular string floss. They also come in fun colors and shapes. Try both and see what works best for your child.
- Read books about oral hygiene. Incorporate books about tooth brushing into your bedtime routine.
- The board book Brush, Brush, Brush! by Alicia Padron can be sung to the tune of "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" and is a great option for teaching this skill to very young children (ages 0-2).
- An interactive pop-up book, Jean Pidgeon's Brush Your Teeth, Please will leave kids wanting to brush and floss just like the animals in the book; it's perfect for 2-4-year-olds.
- Written and illustrated by a dentist, Superbug Doug: All About Cavities, Plaque, and Teeth by Dr. Ben Magleby explains how cavities are formed and why brushing and flossing are so important for kids ages 4-6.
- Keep track of the minutes. Sure, you can use a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone to keep track of when two minutes is up, or you up the ante and use a special hourglass or a fun app for this purpose.
- Help pass the time. Two minutes can feel like an eternity to a young child who is anxious to get back to his or her favorite toy or activity. Make tooth-brushing an event by finding a two-minute song, story or video that they can enjoy listening to or watching while they brush.
Reward progress. A reward chart serves as a great reminder for your kids to brush and floss twice daily, helps establish routines. Just like many adults enjoy checking items off a to-do list, children love filling their charts with stars!
Brushing teeth doesn't have to be a chore. Use these tips to build healthy habits AND healthy smiles.