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5 Tips for Teaching Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

Teaching good oral hygiene to your child at an early age creates a solid foundation for their long-term dental health. Even baby teeth require both everyday brushing and flossing, and routine visits to the dentist. These habits help to make sure your child’s teeth are growing correctly and to timely treat any cavity or other concern that may appear. This early and regular care can help to prevent the need for braces during adolescence and future dental complications well into adulthood. Teaching your child to brush their teeth and floss so they get used to doing it twice a day is an important part of preventative care when it comes to cavities, tooth decay, and infections. And the earlier they build healthy habits, the more natural it will be to them as they grow up.

#1 Choose Age-Appropriate Tools

Choosing your child’s first toothbrush and toothpaste is an important step, and involving them in the process can make a big difference in teaching them how to brush their teeth. Making sure that the toothbrush is one they are excited about, whether it is themed after their favorite cartoon or is a color they love, can help build the habit. Remember to change their toothbrush several times a year and continue to involve them in choosing what they want.

Similarly, letting them choose what flavor they want for their (kid-friendly) toothpaste is a good way to help them stick to their dental care routine.

The toothbrush should have the following qualities:

  • Be child-sized
  • Have soft bristles
  • Its handle fits comfortably in your child’s hand

#2 Break the Process into Small Steps

Children can easily feel overwhelmed by multi-step tasks, so splitting brushing into small bits can make the process more manageable and easier to remember. Creating a visible list can benefit kids who learn better with a visual reminder, especially as they become more independent at brushing their teeth and flossing.

The step-by-step instructions can look like the following:

  • Take out your toothbrush and your toothpaste
  • Count to three while running the bristles of your toothbrush under cold water
  • Turn off the water
  • Put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on your brush
  • Start a two-minute timer
  • Brush your teeth, paying attention to all parts of your mouth (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right, and your tongue)
  • When the timer is up, spit and rinse your mouth
  • Clean your toothbrush and put it away, head upright, in its holder

#3 Make It a Game

Games are a great way to get children engaged in an activity and can be useful for learning purposes. So why not do that for toothbrushing? Creativity is your friend, and you have many options, from pretending their toothbrush is a magic tool that fights plaque monsters, to using a funny colorful egg timer to distract them while they brush their teeth for the recommended 2 minutes. You can also play their favorite songs while brushing. Getting them excited about taking care of their teeth is what matters when building healthy and long-lasting habits.

#4 Create a Reward System

When your child first learns to brush their teeth, a little incentive can help build discipline. Down the line, they will understand the benefits of taking care of their teeth without needing praise or rewards, but considering the creation of a reward system can be a game-changer at the beginning. Making toothbrushing an enjoyable activity makes a positive difference, so you could create a sticker or gold star chart. Every time your little one brushes their teeth, they can place a sticker on the chart and once they have completed it (possibly after a month or whichever time frame you agree on), you can have a set reward, from some extra playtime to a toy. Making sure to compliment them when they do well is always a good idea to reinforce positive behavior.

#5 Talk to Your Dentist

Taking your baby to the dentist after their first teeth appear is an important part of their healthcare. When it is time to teach your child to learn to brush their teeth, you can ask your dentist and their staff to help. When choosing a dentist, find one who makes you and your kid comfortable, and promotes trust and good communication. Not only might they have additional tips that work for your family, but they may also answer questions your child has and/or demonstrate how to properly brush their teeth and floss.

Professional dental care is important for the whole family. Call our Access Dental office today at (973) 358-6266 or use our online contact form to schedule an appointment.