Nurturing the Gnashers
For young children especially, the upkeep of dental hygiene is integral for healthy development. Milk teeth are more prone to decay, so they need to be well looked after; neglecting them can also cause indirect issues in the adult teeth that grow below. Thus, in order for children to smile brightly, chew strongly and speak powerfully, they must gain the habit of a lifetime – brushing at least twice a day for two minutes at a time!
The importance of brushing our teeth generally becomes common knowledge from a young age, and rightfully so. Despite this knowledge, however, children often take brushing their teeth to be a chore. As explained, this can be detrimental to their health, so here are some tips to help remove that stigma and encourage youngsters to tend to their teeth:
1. Avoid brushing their teeth immediately before bed
Part of the reason why children may not enjoy brushing their teeth in the evening is that it symbolises something else they do not enjoy – bedtime.
Without completely destroying a bedtime routine, it might be an idea to have your child’s teeth brushed just before something they really enjoy doing. This could be half an hour of playing, reading, or watching something as a treat (unfortunately they would have to avoid the popcorn though)! What’s more, this kind of strategy could help them burn some energy and make putting them to bed a whole lot easier too.
This approach could improve a child’s relationship with brushing their teeth; brushing their teeth becomes a task that they are rewarded for, or part of doing something they love. Of course, this kind of reward system can be implemented in the mornings too.
2. Involve children in choosing their toothbrush and toothpaste
There are endless options of children’s toothbrushes available; in bamboo, electric form and so on. These are designed specifically for youngsters, so it only makes sense that children choose their own! Having a chosen toothbrush can change a child’s negative attitude towards brushing their teeth; by picking a brush based on its (for instance) fun, mature, or sentimental design can lead a child to feel much better about using it.
Granting children with some choice in which toothbrush they use can also help them feel like the tooth brushing task itself is something they have chosen to do too. By wanting to brush their teeth rather than feeling obligated, children may be more likely to engage in it better.
The same goes for selecting toothpaste. So long as it contains fluoride (and other ingredients you personally consider necessary), it is just important that children are not put off by the taste of the paste! Obviously, if toothpaste tastes delicious, then brushing our teeth is a whole lot better.
3. Allow them to practice brushing their own teeth
For obvious reasons, very young children have to have help when it comes to brushing their teeth. Allowing them to get involved, however, is not to say that their teeth will not be brushed properly – you can have the best of both worlds. Before or after you brush their teeth thoroughly, encourage them to have a go themselves.
By taking part in brushing their own teeth, children can feel something very true – that they are part of something really important. Not only can this help them engage with their dental hygiene, but it can benefit them educationally. They can learn how best to brush their teeth and as they grow, they can put that into practice; taking on such an important habit is best done from an early age.
4. Do it together!
Children love to mirror those who are close to them, so taking the time to brush your teeth together might make it seem less taxing for them. This could be more convenient in the mornings, depending on their bedtime. If you prefer to brush your teeth with them before their bedtime (and then again at your own bedtime), that is only a bonus for your own teeth!
If your child is still at the age where your hands will be full brushing their teeth, then understandably you won’t be able to brush your own at the same time. If that’s the case, then why not get another family member or friend involved? Otherwise, you can take it in turns brushing your own, and your child’s teeth – make it a moment that you share together.
If this doesn’t suit you, then it might just be wise to make sure that your child sees you brushing your own teeth regularly. Setting this kind of example can really help them to come to terms with, or normalise tooth brushing times.
5. Use other mediums
Encouraging children to enjoy brushing their teeth need not only come from the task itself. There are plenty of games, books and TV programmes that you can use as motivating tools. For example, try Topsy and Tim: Our Teeth on BBC iPlayer: https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04j24zj/topsy-and-tim-series-2-16-our-teeth
Falling in love with a medium like this can help children fall in love with brushing their teeth (or at least not dread it so much)!