7 Tips for Getting Your Kids to Brush Twice a Day
By Christina Katz
When I was a kid, I was expected to brush my teeth once a day, in the morning before leaving the house. This habit stuck with me and I passed it on to my daughter. But, according to her dentist, once a day was not going to be enough to keep cavities at bay. So there was only one thing to do—encourage her to brush twice a day. Thankfully, this simple shift has made all the difference. Here are seven ways to encourage your kids to take excellent care of their teeth.
1. Establish a routine early on. Healthy teeth can last a lifetime and repetition helps form positive habits. So be sure to impress on young children that teeth need to be brushed twice a day, morning and night. Keep reminding them as they grow up and don’t be afraid to check up on them. You can’t control your child’s oral inheritance, so emphasize the long-term cavity-prevention game instead. Help kids understand that they have the power to prevent cavities simply by brushing regularly.
2. Have fun showing them how. Show your kids that tooth brushing can be fun and empowering: Brush along with them. Don’t be afraid to be playful with young children, for example letting the toothpaste foam run down your chin while making silly faces in the mirror. Keep disinfectant cleaning wipes handy to make tidying up after brushing quick and easy. If you need help getting in the brushing mood, check out this list of fun songs: mouthhealthy.org/en/kids-brushing-playlist.
3. Use electronic toothbrushes. Combining electricity and water can seem counterintuitive at first. But our dentist recommended the Sonicare electronic toothbrush system for the whole family. Now that we are using the system, we all get fewer cavities. If you don’t have an electronic toothbrush timing your tooth-brushing, a simple two-minute timer can help older kids to make sure they are brushing long enough.
4. Supply the tastiest toothpaste. The taste of toothpaste can make or break a good brusher. And, of course, taste is extremely subjective. For example, I detest wintergreen-flavored toothpaste so much it makes me gag. Your child might have a similar aversion to toothpaste flavors, so choose flavors family members like. And don’t worry if you have four different flavors; they won’t cost you any more in the long run and will encourage happy brushing.
5. Let them wiggle. Staring at yourself in the mirror for two minutes twice a day is not exactly entertaining. So let your kids wander around a bit while they are brushing. Kids who are naturally kinesthetic may actually do a more thorough job if they don’t have to stand still. As they walk about, they can focus on the sensation of moving the toothbrush all around their mouths. Wiggly kids who are too young to safely manage brushing beyond the bathroom can make up a little teeth-brushing dance to help them pass the minutes quickly.
6. Educate them about the pitfalls of neglect. Initially, focus on the positive; don’t use fear to motivate kids to brush. But down the road, don’t be afraid to leverage disappointing results into an opportunity to motivate kids to brush more often and more thoroughly. Make sure your kids understand that folks who do not take good care of their teeth can lose them to dentures later in life. If you have had any preventable dental work, share some of your dental disappointments with your kids. Encourage them to avoid the same stress and discomfort by taking conscientious care of their teeth.
7. Reward good oral hygiene. Of course, there is more to good dental care than merely brushing twice a day. There is also flossing regularly and making bi-annual visits to the dentist for check-ups, x-rays, and treatments. Some of the best rewards for good dental hygiene are the simplest ones: biting into a crisp apple, munching newly popped corn, and even enjoying sugar-free gum once in a while. These make good after-dentist rewards for young children who take good care of their teeth. But, of course, the best reward of all is that toothy grin and feeling of pride that emerges each time the dentist announces, “No cavities this time.”
For years, author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz believed that she had simply inherited “soft teeth,” until she learned how to take better care of her smile.