Let’s face it, toddlers that haven’t acquired the fine motor skills to feed themselves likely are not in a position to effectively brush their teeth. Given this, parents often wait until they feel their kids can do a “passable” job or at least brush with some help. The truth is, it is never too early to get children in the habit of brushing (yes, even if they’re not brushing very well).
Here’s our tips for ensuring your children get into the habit of brushing, but more importantly, learning from a very early age the importance of oral health and hygiene.
Brush Your Children’s Teeth Before they Can Do It Themselves
Just like tying their shoes (for what feels like an eternity!), parents must realize that if their children are ever going to learn to brush, you must first do it for them. Ideally, you’ll brush 2 times daily yet if you’re brushing their teeth once daily, then setting a bed time routine is ideal. Bacteria loves to work at night, so going to bed with a fresh, clean mouth is best.
Of course, many children can’t tolerate the minty toothpaste we adults use, so choose from the huge selection of toothpaste flavours offered at your grocery store or pharmacy. If they like the taste, that’s half the battle won and makes the task that much easier.
Have them Watch You Brush to Reinforce Technique and Duration
Children learn greatly through observation. Often, “doing it for them” means they’re dependent on you and they may tune out…which means if you don’t brush their teeth they’ll likely not be able to do it correctly on their own. Communicate to your child that as you brush your own teeth, reinforcing not only the proper technique, but that it is important that you don’t rush.
You should brush for at least two minutes. To help reinforce this point, you can purchase toothbrushes that are child-friendly and that also light up on a timer, indicating you need to keep brushing until the toothbrush’s built in light goes off. Cool!
Also, teach them what a good toothbrush is and why (soft bristles) and when it is time to replace it. Many toothbrushes have markers that indicate it is time to replace them. Generally, though, you can tell by looking at the bristles and/or how they feel when brushing.
Let Them Brush on their Own – Watching Them
As your child builds confidence and demonstrates they can brush properly (which may be as late as 7 years old or later, depending on when you started teaching them), have them brush on their own under your watchful eye. Give them encouragement and tips to help them master this important routine. An important thing to keep an eye on is that your child is not swallowing the toothpaste, which most often contains fluoride.
The Canadian Dental Association provides great information on fluoride use for your child.
The Time is Now for Your Child to Start Brushing
Getting your child off to a great start may mean a life of near perfect oral health. As with anything, getting into a great routine and brushing properly will ensure children will not slip and ensure that brushing is an essential part of their daily activities.
In the end, your child will thank you for instilling great oral care habits in them. After all, when was the last time an adult regretted taking care of themselves when they were younger?