Ask Hygienist Leah: How do I get my kid to brush?

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February 14th, 2017

Baby playing with first tooth brush

“With our busy schedule, my wife and I struggle to get our 4-year-old to brush her teeth in the morning. We usually end up doing a really quick job on the way out the door, which I’m sure leaves lots of sugar bugs behind. Do you have any tips for getting kids to brush?”

Establishing a good tooth brushing routine is such an important part of taking care of our teeth so that we can keep them for life! Here are some tips for you to make brushing easier on your little ones.

Start Early

  • Establish a tooth brushing routine for morning and night as soon as your child’s first tooth erupts. Not sure how to properly clean your baby’s teeth? Learn here!

Show and Tell

  • Kids learn by watching you. Brush teeth as a family and compare brushing styles – top teeth first or last?
  • Who likes to stand and brush? Sit and brush? Ask your child to show you how to brush teeth, then give them pointers to improve their technique. (No real “rules” here – the important thing is that they brush all surfaces of their teeth: outsides, insides, biting surfaces and tongue! They should use short, back-and-forth motions right at the gumline. More about brushing technique can be found here.)
  • Ask your child to brush your teeth (using your toothbrush, of course!) then take a turn brushing their teeth. This is especially helpful when kids need assistance with brushing and may be less than thrilled about having the brush in their mouth in general. (Side note: kids need help brushing until they are coordinated enough to tie their own shoes, which is typically around age 6.)

Make Brushing Fun

  • Kids will be more excited to brush if they like their toothbrush and toothpaste. There are lots of fun toothbrushes and toothpaste available online and in stores. It’s a good idea to change brushes about every three months, so make it a tradition to pick out a new brush with the new season!
  • Use a toothbrushing app like the Disney Magic Timer to make hitting the two-minute mark easier.
  • Teach your child a song about brushing, and sing it together during brushing sessions. There are many videos available online, but here are two of my favorites:

Motivate and Reward

  • When children are old enough, explain why caring for their teeth matters. Good brushing and flossing habits help prevent cavities and keep our teeth healthy and strong. Our teeth are very important because they help us talk, chew and smile!
  • Use a tooth brushing chart like this one to encourage brushing. When the chart is full of stars, reward the child with something extra special.

With these tips, your child’s teeth will be sparkly and healthy for life. Happy brushing!