Most (if not all) parents know the struggle too well — the twice-a-day conflict to get kids to brush their teeth. But it’s a fight that has to happen, because oral health is an essential part of whole-body health, so parents stick to it, even though it’s tough.
Whether you’re not a parent yet, your child is still all gums, or you’re a parent to a young adult, there are things you can do to make the battle less intense and help your child build a healthier oral care routine. Let’s get right to it.
The earlier you start getting your children used to oral care, the better. (Take a look at When Should I Start Brushing My Baby’s Teeth for more details on why.) When they’ve been exposed to it early, kids are much less likely to find brushing and flossing uncomfortable.
Children learn by watching the world around them and imitating what they see — if you’ve ever seen them mimicking something you do, you already know how much what you do every day influences your little ones. So what’s the best way to get your kids brushing? Show them how it’s done!
The easiest way to model the behavior is to make a point of brushing together. Brush as a group after breakfast and at night before bed. If you’re still brushing your child’s teeth for them, let them try brushing your teeth and show them where they missed and how they can do a better job next time. Most importantly, though:
Make it Fun!
Brushing can feel like a chore, but it doesn’t have to! Listening to a favorite song, watching a video, or telling stories are excellent ways to make brushing more exciting. Singing, dancing, and wiggling all work, too, but make sure you’re doing it safely — moving around too much with a brush and toothpaste in your mouth can be dangerous.
Use the Right Tools
Having the right tools can make building habits much easier. That means choosing a toothbrush that is easy for your child to use and a tasty toothpaste they’ll look forward to using. Until they’re about 8 or 9, children don’t have enough dexterity to get a deep clean, so equipping them with a powerful brush that is easy for them to hold makes a huge difference in the quality of their brushing time. As for toothpaste, most kids find the minty flavors of adult pastes way too strong, which makes brushing uncomfortable for them. A tasty paste can make brushing something to look forward to — but remind them that toothpaste isn’t a snack!
Habits Come From Structure
The bottom line on forming habits is that they break down into three steps: the cue, the action, and the reward. If you want to build effective habits, it’s important to know how to make the most of each step. The cue is something you already do that can kick off the behavior you want to turn into a habit — something like having breakfast, going to the bathroom, or getting ready for bed. Making sure to add brushing to the things your kids already do is a great way to make it stick.
The action is, well, the action! It’s brushing.
The reward is something you’re very familiar with — giving your young one recognition for doing a good job goes a long way. Keep in mind that rewards aren’t a one-off thing for habits, so make sure the rewards are okay for every day — staying up a few extra minutes or a little more screen time are great examples of effective rewards. Habits stick because there’s always a reward at the end, which is why they should be small but effective. Eventually, the reward of a clean, healthy mouth is enough of a reward, but until then, it helps to sweeten the deal.
We hope these tips help! Pay it forward by sharing your family brushing time and tips that worked for you on social media with the hashtag #BURSToralcare.