Alright, we’ll be honest. Brushing teeth is not exactly something that many people consider “fun.” Yet just like doing our laundry and washing the dishes, teeth brushing is something that simply needs to be completed. This is a healthy habit that we want to build, which is why it’s so important for us to help start these routines at a young age. Since children should visit the dentist within six months of the appearance of their first tooth, this is a habit that will be with them for practically their whole lives (that is, as long as this habit is started early).
Brushing teeth for many families is practically equivalent to pulling them, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The dentists at Burley Dentistry are here to help! We are a family dentistry that also specializes in general and cosmetic dentistry as well, serving you and your family at any age. Take a look at our tips for helping your children find joy in brushing teeth—it’s possible, we swear.
Establish background knowledge.
Kids are smart, and whereas certain gimmicks like the classic “how fast can you make your bed? I’ll time you!” might last for a minute, they aren’t sustainable. One of the most important methods to making teeth brushing a routine (and a joyful one at that) is to make sure your kids understand why we have to take care of our teeth.
Check out books from the library, watch episodes of shows that highlight dental care, and do anything else to help teach children that our dental health affects our overall health, as well as our life. If kids truly comprehend the importance of brushing teeth, they will be more apt to making this activity fun, and in a much more genuine way.
Provide them with ownership.
Nothing takes the joy away from something faster than being told you have an obligation to fulfill. If a boss told us to finish a task “because I said so” we’d likely be much less motivated to do our best. Providing kids with ownership in the task is instrumental in helping them find the fun.
Talk and play up getting to pick dental hygiene things out, eventually letting them pick out their own supplies. Be sure to model this behavior for them, by saying things like “I’m so excited, I need a new toothbrush and I love getting to choose the color!” When you hype it up and show genuine excitement, your kids will follow in your footsteps. Let them choose their toothpaste and toothbrush, and continue the verbal encouragement that you’re proud of them for their responsibility. The “fun” aspect needs to be built up, and done so in a way that’s authentic so that the routine really sticks.
While you don’t want to detract from the purpose of the activity (brushing teeth), have a 30-second song play to help practice brushing for an appropriate amount of time. Turn teeth brushing time into a dance party! Keep it upbeat during morning routines, and consider a mellower song for nighttime. Take a pause before rinsing and spitting and turn that toothbrush into a microphone! Kids love music, and this will definitely create a ritual that they will look forward to.
However, be sure to note that the most important thing is to brush teeth. If you notice teeth brushing falling to the wayside in favor of dance parties, pause the music, make sure everyone gets the job done, and then go back to it. Balance this activity as necessary.
Create a handshake.
After your children have completed their teeth brushing and you can tell they did a good job, create a handshake to use with them to celebrate. Don’t settle for a fist bump or a simple high five—make it elaborate! They will absolutely love getting the celebration; it’s so easy to do, yet such a great way to make them smile.
Make a sticker chart… within reason.
If some kids absolutely despise brushing their teeth (and it does happen), consider creating a sticker chart to serve as additional motivation. As an extrinsic motivator, you want to be careful rewarding your kids for something that should just be a habit, but sometimes this motivator is needed as a push at the start. Each goal that is completed (such as “brushing teeth with no reminders for a week straight”) a little bit harder each time to appropriately challenge kids, eventually withdrawing the use of a sticker chart altogether.
The rewards should also be sensible, and not over the top. Allow your child limited options to their reward—would they rather spend some time playing basketball with you? Or try a new art project? Making the focus less on material things keeps the external motivational factors to a minimum, and does a better job at building tooth brushing as a routine.
Ultimately, we want to make tooth brushing an activity one that our kids won’t dread, but rather embrace. There’s nothing too fancy needed to be done in order to bring fun into this habit, and encouraging a positive mindset and the idea that practically anything can be enjoyable is perhaps the most promising lesson of all. Work with your children to create great routines, and contact our dentists today to schedule an appointment! Our dental clinic is here for you and your family—call today!