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What to Keep in Mind When Teaching Children How to Brush Their Teeth

 In General Dentistry

From the time your child cuts his or her first teeth, it’s time to start introducing and encouraging good brushing habits.  The good news is that teaching children how to brush their teeth is easier than you might think. After all, you’ve probably been doing it in some form or another all along.  Before they’re able to hold their own toothbrush, you ask them to open wide so you can brush their little teeth for them. Then, as they grow, they see how you brush your teeth – wetting the toothbrush, putting toothpaste on the brush, brushing, rinsing, etc.  And now, it’s time to let them try for themselves. But, how can you best pass on these essential habits?

It’s not uncommon for children to be less than eager to brush their teeth on their own.  They may resist the act, seeing it as an unnecessary chore. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can employ to help them learn to brush their teeth.  Here’s what you should keep in mind:

  • Keep expectations in check.  Remember, your child young and is just learning, so don’t set your expectations too high.  For instance, if they’re not reaching all of their teeth or into those tiny crevices yet, or aren’t cleaning their gums properly, that’s ok.  The early years are more about positively instilling the habit. Proper technique will come with time and practice.
  • Let your child pick their supplies.  The key to implementing good oral hygiene habits so that your child doesn’t fight back is to find a way to make it fun.  So, let them come to the store with you to choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them see all of the fun, colorful characters on the brushes and the tasty flavors of toothpaste that are available.  Trust us – this can make all the difference! If they’re excited to use the tools, they’ll be excited to do so regularly. Just make sure that when your child is using them that you’re there to monitor their use.  Young children under 3, for example, should only be using the tiniest bit of toothpaste (think rice-sized), and children 3-6 should only use a pea-sized amount to prevent getting those white lines in their teeth that are caused by too much fluoride.   
  • Brush in turns.  If your child isn’t quite catching onto the new brushing routine, you might start taking turns brushing his or her teeth.  For example, you might brush them in the morning for them, then they can try brushing them in the evening. This way, your child still gets to practice on their own but also gets a reminder on proper technique.
  • Brush together.  Once your child has a firmer grasp on the process of brushing, make it a joint activity, and brush your own teeth along with them.  This one-on-one time may help encourage them to take their time brushing for a more thorough clean. Plus, it’s a great way to bond!  
  • Talk to your dentist.  Don’t forget that you already have an ally in your corner – your dentist!  When you take your child in for their bi-annual checkups, ask your dentist to share praise with your little one for brushing their teeth all by themselves.  The more encouragement they get and positive reinforcement, the stronger their desire to keep up the habit will become, and they’ll be well on the path toward a lifetime of good oral hygiene.    

Good oral health starts with good hygiene habits.  So, use these tips to teach your child how to properly care for their pearly whites, today!  

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