Just like changing nappies or washing hair children may not want to brush their teeth given the choice. So let’s make it really clear from the start: it is not a choice.
That’s why it’s important to include toothbrushing as a daily family habit from as early as possible. Even when there are no teeth in the mouth, the gummy smile can still be cleaned with a tooth wipe or a very soft silicon finger toothbrush. Factoring toothbrushing into your children’s daily routine can help to establish the habit. Toothbrushing is a habit with lifelong benefits. Invest time and effort into toothbrushing.
The minimum standard recommendation is 2 minutes twice a day of toothbrushing. That’s unrealistic for infants and pre-schoolers. Instead, aim to put the toothbrush in the mouth several times a day after food, even if it’s less than 30 seconds. Night time toothbrushing is the most important, so do make it a priority. Aim to do the night time toothbrushing before your children get tired and cranky. Try not to eat or drink, except for water, after toothbrushing.
To add some fun, try these suggestions:
- Song and dance – Let the children listen to a special song during toothbrushing, e.g. Lah-Lah’s Brush Your Teeth. Or use a toothbrushing app that features age appropriate content. When brushing is done, celebrate by doing a little dance together (right now, dancing “The Floss” is popular)
- Bring in teddy or dolly – Let your children brush their teddy or dolly’s teeth while you brush theirs. For some extra fun, make some germs out of soft felt or cardboard and stick them onto teddy or dolly’s mouth using velcro, then get your children to brush the germs off! There are also special soft toys with teeth available.
- Do it together – Make toothbrushing and flossing a family activity. Let the children see you brush and floss. Let them brush your teeth after you’ve brushed theirs. For added adventure use a disclosing toothpaste e.g. Plaque-Glo together and have fun hunting down the nasties in each other’s mouths.
- Give choices – Toothbrushing is not a choice, it is a must. So, asking children, “Do you want to brush your teeth now?” is not a good idea. Instead, offer choices that you can fulfil. For example, “Let’s go brush our teeth. Do you want to use the Mini Monster toothbrush or the yellow toothbrush tonight?”, or “Which teeth should we clean first today? Top teeth or bottom teeth?”. Be creative!
- Give a treat – It is important to avoid eating after toothbrushing. However, giving a “treat for teeth” such as a treat containing xylitol. Xylitol is a non-decay causing sugar substitute. In some research studies, xylitol has been shown to reduce decay-causing bacteria and tooth decay. Tooth Mousse is a therapeutic for remineralization, it is also come in delicious flavours: strawberry, melon, vanilla, frutti tutti. It can be used without side effects in children, as long as there is no milk protein allergy. A rice grain-sized amount brushed onto teeth after toothbrushing may help to positively reinforce the essential habit.