Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Post: 5 Tips for Teaching Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

Brushing teeth is a daily battle in many homes. Parents all over the world can be found standing in the bathroom in the morning and the evening, practically begging their children in frustration to brush their teeth and do it right. However, there are some easy tricks to help teach your child how to brush their teeth that make the task much easier!

1. Make It Fun

While it may seem like such a basic task for most adults, kids find that brushing teeth is boring or even uncomfortable, hence the battle. However, if you make the whole thing fun, you will suddenly find that you get much less resistance. Try singing a funny song that is approximately two minutes in length while they brush (two minutes is the recommended amount of time that we all brush our teeth each time) or use a Silly Songs CD and play a new silly song each time. Remind your child that they have to brush during the entire song, but encourage them to wiggle and dance while they are brushing and listening. Suddenly, it’s a dance party and brushing teeth is fun again.

2. Make It Comprehendible

We all know that if we do not brush our teeth, bacteria and plaque builds up in our mouths, causing bad breath, cavities and even gingivitis or gum disease. These terms are all too abstract for kids; especially since kids are notorious for thinking that bad things cannot happen to them. Try switching gears and explain to children that all food, especially sugary food, has sugar bugs in it. When you eat it, the sugar bugs go in your mouth and make it yucky and icky. If you leave the sugar bugs in there, you will get cavities. So you have to brush really good to get rid of all the sugar bugs. Draw up a picture of icky sugar bugs and let your child color and decorate it, then hang the picture in the bathroom. When it is time to brush teeth, point to the sugar bug picture and tell the sugar bugs to say bye-bye. Your child will love brushing from here on out.

3. Make It Rewarding
A basic element of human nature is our receptiveness to a reward system. Of course, you don’t want to reward good teeth brushing with sugary food, so hang up a sticker sheet. Every time your child brushes their teeth successfully, they get a sticker. At the end of the week, if they earn enough stickers, they get a prize, which can be anything from a small toy or an extra trip to the library. Let them help you choose the rewards (remember, no food) to make the promise extra interesting and motivational.

4. Make It Worth It
Sometimes kids need a little help with the technical details of brushing their teeth. For instance, it is common for kids to miss the back corners of their mouths or to be a little sloppy on brushing the inside of their teeth. Grab your toothbrush and do a demonstration with them, moving slowly and opening your mouth wide so that they can see what you are doing. Sometimes a little visual learning is the best way to learn of all.

5. Make the Dentist Your Ally
Bring your children to the dentist at least twice a year and ask him or her for tips on how to get kids to do a good job brushing their teeth. Since dentists face this problem all the time, they usually know some good tricks that will get your children interested in brushing and doing a good job. For instance, some dentists have little tablets that children can dissolve in their mouth before brushing their teeth. After brushing, the child looks in his or her mouth and sees a stain from the tablet where he or she did not do a very good job of brushing. This immediate feedback is both fun and informative. Ask your dentist for more information.

Rochelle Peterson likes to write about health, education &