Drawing on the experience of some of the parents we know, we wrote this micro-play about how to get your kids to brush their teeth.
Parent: “Honey, you have to brush your teeth now.”
Parent: “I know you don’t like it, but if you don’t you’ll get cavities.”
Kid: “What’s cavities?”
Parent: “They’re like little holes in your teeth.”
Kid: Begins to cry…
Parent: “Honey, don’t cry! They’re just tiny little holes, they’re so small you can’t even see them.”
Kid: Sniff…sniff…. “But, if they’re so tiny, how can they hurt me?”
Parent: “Well, they get bigger over time, and then they can hurt.”
Kid: “Like tomorrow?”
Parent: “No, it takes a long time.”
Kid: “Like a week?”
Parent: “No, longer than that. Nevermind the cavities. All you need to know that is you need to brush your teeth now, and at least twice a day, every day for the rest of your life.”
Kid: “But, Mommy, the benefits that brushing will afford me in the distant and unknowable future are greatly outweighed by my visceral, and, well, animalistic dislike of toothbrushing that I know I will feel in the near future if you follow through with this ill-conceived and mean-spirited threat. How can you tell me you love me when you want to torture me like this? Also, I’m playing with my blocks. Blocks are cool.”
Kids say the darndest things, don’t they?
They sure do. Obviously, we made this up. But, it proves a point that every parent knows is true: the benefits of brushing aren’t enough on their own to get your kids to brush their teeth. You have to find a way to make brushing more rewarding in the short term.
There’s no one thing that will work for everyone, but we have three tips to offer:
Make it fun
Songs, games, special toothbrushes—any and all of these are worth trying.
Our Facebook friend Douglas said that when he says “It’s Toothbrush Time!” his two year-old comes running saying “Firetruck! Firetruck!” This little boy loves the firetruck sounds his parents make when they “put out the fires” in his mouth, even though he still struggles when the actual brushing takes place.
If a game like that doesn’t work, try out this song we wrote to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down:
When do we brush? Twice a day, twice a day, twice a day.
When do we brush? Twice a day, clean and shiny!
How do we brush? Whoosh whoosh whoosh… Clean and shiny!
What do we brush? Teeth and gums… Clean and shiny!
Set an example
If you brush your own teeth while your children brush theirs, it’s a bit easier to the make the case that it isn’t so bad after all. If you don’t mind a few pokes in the face, maybe you can let your child try to brush your teeth. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is!
Raffi Bilek said on her blog that “my good sense finally caught up with me, and I started to do what should have been painfully obvious to me earlier: When I want my kids to brush their teeth, I brush my teeth.” When she remembered that she’d never seen her own father brush his teeth, even though she’s certain that he did, she realized how powerful teaching by example can be. Now she brushes her teeth four times a day, but as Raffi said, “Let’s face it: My toothpaste expenses are not breaking the bank.” Sounds like a wise investment to us.
Make it a habit
This is the important part that some parents can forget. Sharon Beesley was courageous enough to admit on her blog that she only brushed her kids teeth once or twice and week, and one of her kids had to have a root canal. She described what she learned like this:
“Every time I see his shiny metal tooth in the back of his mouth, I’m reminded of my biggest failure as a mother. They say failure is the secret to success. I just think it’s the secret to a lot less cavities.”
In other words, don’t make the same mistake! The consequences can be serious.
Even if your kids still hate brushing after you’ve tried all the tips above—and we know those kids are out there—the only way to make them accept it is to make no exceptions, and they’ll give in eventually.
We realize “eventually” is a relative term. “Eventually” could be a few days, it could be a few months, or even a few years. Either way, you can trust us that all the fuss is worth it—someday the struggles will be a thing of the past, but your child’s teeth will last a lifetime.
And have them see the dentist every six months!
A dentist’s trained eyes are critical for spotting problems a parent can’t see on his or her own. The good part is that if you keep your kids brushing like we described above, you probably won’t need us to do much! We wish you the best of luck with your children’s home dental care, and we look forward to working with you to keep your little birds smiling and healthy until they leave the nest.
Call us at [phonenumber]503-450-0123[/phonenumber] or fill in the form below and we’ll contact you.
[gravityform id=”4″ title=”false” description=”false”]