Helping Your Child Take Control of Their Oral Hygiene and Health
“Look, Mommy, I brushed my teeth!”
Your first grader may have left the toothpaste still on the toothbrush, but at least she’s enthusiastic!
As a loving, concerned, responsible, exhausted parent, this can be a dilemma. You want to hand over the reins to your kids, but did they brush the tops and backs of their teeth? Did they rinse their toothbrush? Did they eat the toothpaste?
Did they chew on the toothbrush?
So many worries.
And that’s just one little area of parenting.
It’s our goal to make dental health more fun, more practical, and less stressful! You deserve a win, Mom and Dad!
You’ve done your homework. You’ve brushed their little teeth, or tooth, for years, and it’s time to reward yourself by letting them give it a go. If they’re 7 or 8 and older, you might still pop in to supervise, but it’s okay to let them do it themselves a few times a week at this age.
But how do you motivate them? And how do you make sure they’re doing it right?
How to Motivate School-age Kids to Brush and Floss
You’re past playing the toothbrush song. But even elementary-school-age children still benefit from routine and rewards. Here are a few ideas to try.
1. Attach an oral hygiene habit to another habit.
Do they love their cozy jammies, always read a story at night, or always get a glass of milk? Attach the habit of brushing their teeth to a habit they already have, in the same order each day. Kids love routines and patterns as they are calming and reassuring. Routines are a wonderful way to motivate children to stick to micro habits such as flossing and brushing.
2. Offer them a healthy tooth snack reward!
Try rewarding them with Zollipops for brushing their teeth, the clean teeth snack that reduces the acidity in their mouth, helping to reduce decay and cavities. Yes, it’s okay to eat these after you brush your teeth! They don’t have any harmful sugars or other ingredients that will eat away at their enamel.
3. For young kids, use your imagination!
Some kids can’t resist all things pretend. Have you tried pretending to take them to the dentist? Maybe they want to be the dentist for their stuffed animal before letting Mom or Dad take a turn.
4. Reconsider the sweet toothpaste.
Sweet toothpaste might seem like a good motivation, but it’s also more tempting to swallow! Try a kid’s toothpaste that is neutral, such as Colgate Total for Kids.
5. Model the behavior you want to see.
Make sure you are consistent with when you expect your kids to brush their teeth, and in how positive you are about the concept of oral hygiene. Your kids are watching you, so make sure you model the behavior you want to see.
6. Highlight the social benefits of oral hygiene.
Talking about the future of their teeth doesn’t work well at this age. It can either feel alarmist or go over their heads completely. Instead, highlight the immediate benefits of fresh, clean breath and shiny teeth. One of the most obvious of these is the social angle. You probably don’t have to tell your middle-schooler why they want to have fresh breath talking to their friends at school.
7. Make sure you make going to the dentist a positive experience!
There are so many wonderful dentists out there that realize the importance of helping kids enjoy the dentist (ourselves included)! This is a very powerful way to help kids form healthy habits for life.
A Quick Look at Your Kid’s Ideal at Home Oral Hygiene Routine
Make sure your kids are brushing for two minutes, going in tiny circles, and covering each side, including the tops of their molars. Also, a toothbrush should be angled towards their gums to get that 1/16” of the tooth behind the gum pocket. This keeps bacteria from eating away at their gums. Brushing should be twice a day.
Flossing may be a hard habit to start, but it’s even harder to stop once you’ve established the habit. Kids in this age group, like adults, should floss daily.
Cinnamon-flavored, bubble-gum, and every other flavor you can imagine. Even the ADA-approved list of mouthwash is full of fun, kid-friendly mouthwash.
Maybe you still remember when mouthwash meant alcohol-infused tinctures. No longer the case, dentist-approved, total care mouthwash that doesn’t feel like hot sauce is the best bet for your kids. Thankfully, this totally addictive habit is now made from totally nonaddictive ingredients.
Many people overlook the power of mouthwash. It’s easier than flossing and effectively kills germs that otherwise might stick around to attack your gums. And who doesn’t want fresh breath that smells like spearmint or cinnamon?
Check out this page for more tips.