Sometimes it feels like kids are destined to hate all the necessary things that need to be done to keep them healthy. From eating their vegetables to scrubbing behind their ears, kids aren’t known for their conscientiousness when it comes to personal health and hygiene.
Dental hygiene and tooth brushing is no different. Ask any parent and they’ll tell you without hesitation that getting their kids to brush their teeth is an ongoing struggle. Maybe it has to do with the fact that tooth brushing is a core part of the standard bedtime routine (Oh yeah, another thing kids frustratingly refuse to do normally). The cause of the resistance is unknown, but one thing is true: kids don’t take to oral hygiene as easily as dental professionals or parents would like.
As dental professionals, we don’t see our patients every day, so we can’t be personally responsible for helping kids remember to brush regularly. What we can do, though, is empower parents to help their kids develop healthy dental habits. Here are five quick and easy tips that can make the brushing and flossing routine a little less miserable for kids and parents alike.
Make it a game – Competition is a strong motivator, especially for little ones. Although the idea of dental decay might not be effective at getting them to brush and floss properly, the prospect of reigning victorious in an ongoing competition with mum and dad might be a little different. Try creating a game surrounding oral hygiene routine to raise interest.
Try an electric toothbrush – Kids have very little patience for hassle and tedium. Think about it. When they don’t like doing something, it’s usually because the task involves a little work on their part for which they won’t get any direct benefit (chores, cleaning their room, etc.). An electric toothbrush can reduce some of the frustration of manual brushing that kids experience, and it can add a cool factor that makes whole experience more enjoyable. Actually, there are plenty of adults that still get a little excited to whip out their electric toothbrush (Hey, don’t judge).
Explain in their words – Periodontal disease, gingivitis, and tooth decay often don’t make a lot of sense to kids. And for that reason, they become these imperceptible things that mommy and daddy think are important, not exactly top kid priorities. To circumvent this issue, dental professionals can assist parents in explaining the consequences of improper oral hygiene in kid-friendly words. For example, explain that, “cavities make teeth hurt and sad. You wouldn’t want to let that happen to them, would you?”
Let them pick out paste, floss, and other supplies – Kids get excited about the small stuff. Getting a toy with their kids’ meal, seeing a jumbo jet take off at the airport, and picking out a treat from the store are all experiences that seem small to us but can have a big impact on little minds. Parents can use this to their advantage by letting their kids pick out their own brush, paste, and floss. This lets them get a little excited about the purchase, and consequently the brushing and flossing they’ll do later.
Have parents brush and floss with them – This last tip might be simple, but it could be one of the most effective of them all. The idea is to link the parent’s routine with the kid’s so that they can witness the parent’s hygiene habits and use them to model their own. Kids are highly impressionable when it comes to parental behaviour. Sometimes simply seeing their mom or dad work to keep their teeth healthy will help them do the same.
There you have it, five ways you can help parents help their children develop a sound dental hygiene routine that will keep their teeth healthy for years to come. Do you have any tips you’d like to add? If so, drop in a comment and let us know!