There are at least two things that every parent knows. First, one of the best ways to set their kids up for long-term dental health is to establish good oral hygiene habits early. Second, children don’t enter the world being particularly enthusiastic about healthy habits like brushing their teeth. All of which begs the question — how can we get our kids excited about brushing their teeth? (Not to mention flossing!) Here are five great suggestions for establishing some early and healthy habits. Contact the staff at a children’s dentist near you for more great ideas.
Set it to music
Does your toddler have a favorite song? Maybe it’s a classic like Old McDonald or Itsy Bitsy Spider. Or maybe it’s one of the songs featured on one of their favorite shows from Disney Junior, Netflix, Universal Kids, Apple TV+ or even PBS Kids. Whatever that song is, try making it the theme for your teeth-brushing time. Play it just when she’s brushing her teeth. Or better yet, sing it as she does so. And best yet, sing it together when she’s done. Mix it up as new songs reach the top of her hit parade.
Give your kids control
Mom and Dad must control many things about toothbrushing — especially when, how often and how long. But are there things your toddler can control (besides the soundtrack or theme song)? Today, you can buy toothbrushes featuring every color, style and character common in pop culture. Try letting your child choose her toothbrush (within your limits, but you don’t need to tell her that). Let her choose what to wear as she brushes her teeth. Maybe even let her choose where she brushes her teeth. Washroom? Check. Kitchen? Check. Back yard? Back seat of the car? Why not if it gets her excited by the notion? The more your kid feels like she’s controlling the occasion, the more likely she’ll want to repeat it.
Lead the way
It’s one of the great burdens of “adulting” and “parenting” — setting a good example. Seeing parents brush their teeth twice daily (and even floss and use mouthwash) will help implant good habits and make self-care another part of the family’s regular and healthy lifestyle. Your toddler’s teeth brushing shouldn’t be an exception; it should be something she does, just like her older siblings and parents. Is there any reason she can’t watch you brush your teeth? Even put your toothpaste on your toothbrush? Count your teeth for you to make sure they’re all there. (Soon, she’ll want to accompany you to your next appointment at a dental office near you. Another great idea!)
Set loose your kids’ imagination
If your kids’ is especially interested in drawing, coloring, painting, finger painting, modeling clay, or sticker sticking (is that a thing?), leverage those interests toward dental hygiene habits, too. Working with the first example of drawing, spend some time drawing teeth together. Add in some bad-guy bacteria and some good-gal toothpaste bubbles. Throw some paint, sparkles, pipe cleaners and stickers and put them on the wall near her toothbrush when the masterpiece is complete. That burst of creativity can quickly become an opportunity for role play and imaginative storytelling featuring her teeth.
One more idea along the same vein… For generations, kids have played “Doctor.” Try playing “Dentist” in your house. Get some toy dental instruments at a toy store or make some yourself, and take turns taking care of your toddler’s favorite stuffies’ teeth. (For other props, check with your dental office in Dearborn. Maybe they can help.)
Establishing good dental hygiene habits is a serious business, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. The more fun you and your toddler have with it, the more likely it is to stick. If you have questions about helping your child learn to care for her teeth or any aspect of pediatric dentistry, let any children dentist in Dearborn know. We love kids’ and kids’ teeth and would love to help.