We’ve covered everything from how to make brushing teeth fun to ways to get kids to brush their teeth for two full minutes but what about how to actually teach children the mechanics of brushing their teeth? Little ones aren’t born knowing how to wield a toothbrush. It’s something they need to learn and practice over time in order to effectively banish plaque and keep their teeth and gums healthy. Yet, for adults, it’s easy to take knowing how to brush your teeth for granted and it can seem surprisingly tough to show another person how to do it properly.
Well, as a Naperville pediatric dentistry practice, educating parents and little patients on oral hygiene is our specialty! We’re sharing 8 tips for teaching kids to brush their teeth:
Give Yourself a Refresher on Proper Tooth Brushing Technique
After brushing your teeth for decades, you probably don’t put much thought into exactly what the process entails. This can make it hard to explain or demonstrate how to brush your teeth for kids. Refresh your own knowledge before teaching kids to brush their teeth. Here are some of the basics of proper tooth brushing technique:
- Hold the toothbrush against the gum line at a 45-degree angle.
- Move the toothbrush gently back and forth in small strokes.
- Start at the gumline and brush all the way down to the chewing surface of the tooth.
- Brush the outer, chewing and inner surface of the tooth.
- When cleaning the inside of the front teeth, turn the brush so that it’s vertical and use short up-and-down strokes.
- Brush each individual tooth during every brushing session.
- Brush your teeth for two minutes each time.
- When you finish bruising your teeth, brush the tongue from back to front.
Start By Brushing Kids’ Teeth for Them
Young children don’t have the fine motor skills necessary to brush and floss their own teeth effectively. While not one of the most fun ways to teach kids to brush their teeth, brushing for them is necessary for the first few years. Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts using a soft, infant-sized toothbrush and a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste, no larger than a grain of rice. Floss their teeth once a day when any two teeth are touching.
As you floss or brush your baby’s teeth, explain what you’re doing aloud. Yes, it can feel silly narrating but talking through what you’re doing and why will build the foundation and you might be surprised at how much your child internalizes..
Demonstrate on Yourself
Demonstrate how to brush your teeth for kids by brushing your own teeth in front of them using good brushing technique. Again, tell kids what you’re doing and why. Keep the demonstration upbeat, positive and fun. Even if brushing your teeth isn’t your favorite thing to do, pretend it is. Enthusiasm is key because it can rub off on your child and make them more excited about oral hygiene.
Let Kids Try Brushing Their Teeth on Their Own
Once your toddler or preschooler is able to hold the toothbrush correctly, let them try to brush their own teeth in front of a mirror. Most children learn best by doing. However, again, little kids don’t have the dexterity to effectively brush all of their tooth surfaces and it’s recommended parents supervise teeth brushing until children are around seven or years of age. So, have your child brush their own teeth first while you watch and then do a quick follow up if necessary to eliminate any lingering plaque. Using a mirror will help keep them on task and let them see what they’re doing. Kids who don’t brush their teeth on their own at all will have a harder time picking up the technique when they’re older.
Use the Correct Tools
Using a children’s toothbrush and tasty, kid-friendly toothpaste will go a long way in helping kids learn to brush their teeth. A child-sized toothbrush will fit in their mouth and be much more comfortable and easier for them to maneuver. A fun kid’s toothbrush will also get them excited and when they like the taste of their toothpaste, there is usually less of a struggle.
Aside from a children’s toothbrush and toothpaste, consider a toothbrushing timer app or an old-fashioned timer. It can be hard for kids to gauge what two minutes is (hey, it can be hard for adults too!). A timer or toothbrushing timer app will make things easier because it will alert kids when their two minutes of brushing is up.
Watch Teeth Brushing Videos for Kids
Watching a brushing teeth video for kids is great for visual learners. Children can see the correct tooth brushing technique in action and then replicate it on themselves. A quick search on YouTube will turn up a ton of teeth brushing videos for kids that are educational and entertaining.
Brush Your Teeth Together
Brushing together is another of the fun ways to teach kids to brush their teeth. Make a big deal out of brushing time and turn it into a family bonding activity. Have your child mimic what you do and use the same technique, so that while they’re having a blast, they’re also learning how to brush correctly.
Practice on Stuffed Animals or on DIY Teeth
We all know practice makes perfect and when it comes to learning how to brush your teeth for kids, the same holds true. If your child has a doll or stuffed animal with teeth, have them brush the toy’s teeth.. Walk them through how to do it and offer plenty of encouragement when they use proper technique.
If they don’t have a toy with teeth that can be brushed, you can make some faux pearly whites. Play Based Parenting has a great tutorial for making DIY teeth for children to practice brushing on using old yogurt containers. Demonstrate how to brush teeth for kids on the yogurt container “teeth” and then let them practice getting the teeth sparkling clean.
We hope these tips for how to teach your kids to brush their teeth are helpful. If after trying them, your child is still having trouble brushing their teeth or just doesn’t like to do it, let us know and we can help. Our Naperville kids’ dentists are experts in helping families develop amazing homecare routines that will keep little teeth healthy and strong. To schedule a visit, call us at (630) 848-7336 today!