Creative Ways to Help Your Kids Develop Good Dental Health Habits
One look at your child’s bright smile and you’ll know it’s worth doing everything to protect and preserve. But how do you get your child excited about caring for their teeth? How can you inspire good dental health habits for their future? Here are some creative ideas to encourage your kids to take great care of their teeth.
Set a good example
This starts with you. Children are like sponges soaking up everything around them — including your habits. If you’re not brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly, how can you expect your kids to be any different?
Set a great example for your kids by…
- Brushing twice a day (for 2 minutes) and flossing at least once a day
- Seeing the dentist for your regular checkups and exams
- Eating a healthy diet low in acidic and sugary foods and drinks
- Keeping a stock of soft-bristled toothbrushes, floss, and toothpaste on hand so your family will never have a lapse in clean teeth when you run out
Bonus tip: While your children are learning how to brush properly, you’ll need to provide hands-on supervision. Allow your child to practice brushing on their own, then go through and brush their teeth again to make sure they get a proper clean.
Experiment with kid-friendly dental tools
Your little ones will think brushing and flossing is a lot more exciting when they’re using child-specific dental products. There are so many options available:
- Cartoon character-themed toothbrushes
- Electric toothbrushes that play a song, have a timer, and/or sync with a fun app
- Colorful and flavored floss
- Hand-held flossers
- Fun flavored toothpaste
There are even new electric toothbrushes that sync with an app and aim to keep kids brushing. The app is a game where your kiddo will earn points for brushing each of the four quadrants of their mouth for two minutes.
Bonus tip: Let your child’s dentist know what type of dental products you’re using to make sure they’re the best choice.
Make up a silly tooth-brushing song
Help your child turn brushing their teeth into a fun time they look forward to. Adjust your exact approach based on what your child responds best to, and try switching things up every few months or so to keep things interesting
Here are some of our favorite song-related ideas:
- Write your own family song about caring for your teeth and have everyone sing it before or after brushing
- Ask your child make up a song and sing it while they brush their teeth
- Turn on their favorite song and have them keep brushing until it’s over
Bonus tip: If your child feels up to it, ask them to perform the song for their dentist at their visit! It’s a great way to help connect what they do at home to what happens at the dentist office. And your dental team will certainly love it!
Use stories as an incentive
Many families incorporate a story into their bedtime routine. Have you thought of using this as an incentive for brushing and flossing?
We’ve heard of some great story tactics by patients:
- Use a bedtime story as the reward for brushing and flossing
- Tell a story while your child is brushing their teeth
- Having your child brush the entire length of the story (make sure it’s 2 minutes!)
Bonus tip: If your kiddo gets distracted as you’re telling the story and stops brushing, make sure you stop reading. No brushing, no story!
Everyone loves show and tell
Hands-on learning is very effective for young children. Allow your child to watch as you brush and floss your own teeth. Then try trading on and off. Let them try to brush your teeth for you or brush their own teeth and give you a demonstration of their own.
Bonus tip: Don’t worry if they don’t brush exactly right. The goal is for them to get comfortable and used to holding the toothbrush and using the brushing motion.
Get some help from the family pet
Along the same lines, a fun way to demonstrate and talk about dental health is to get some help from your family dog.
Brush your puppy’s teeth in front of your children explaining that everyone in the family needs to keep their teeth clean. It’s a great opportunity to discuss dental care outside of regular brushing time and gives kids practice holding a toothbrush.
Bonus tip: Are you a pet-free household? Use your kid’s favorite stuffed animal, doll, or action figure instead!
Make a sticker goal chart
What is it about a sticker chart that kids find so exciting? Tap into that excitement and use it to teach about good dental health!
Create a brushing chart and let your child put a sticker on it every time they brush and floss. Promise a fun reward once your child reaches a certain number of stickers. This could be a new toy, going to a movie, or even their favorite meal!
Bonus tip: Try to avoid using a sugary candy or anything that’s damaging to their dental health as a reward. Ice cream is an okay compromise.
Make it a recurring conversation
All these tips and tricks are meant to be fun and engaging, but in reality, dental health is a serious topic. Tooth decay is the #1 chronic disease affecting kids today.
The more your kids understand the topic, the more interested in it they’ll become. So don’t keep it a mystery. Make it a common family discuss topic. Whether it’s during dinner, while at the grocery store, or while getting ready for bed, there are so many times when dental health can fit naturally into your conversation.
Some great things to discuss are:
- Why flossing is important
- Why people have both baby and adult teeth
- Where cavities come from
- What a dentist does
Not sure how to answer these questions correctly? Ask us for pointers at your next appointment. We’d love to help.
Bonus tip: Avoid scaring your child with scary stories about what might happen if they don’t take care of their teeth. This can lead to a fear of the dentist that can stick with them through adulthood.
What to watch out for as a parent
Your child might be experiencing some mouth pain or dental issue without you knowing about it. Signs that something might be going on are if your child is…
- Favoring one side of their mouth
- Reluctant to eat or drink
- Being unusually quiet
- Fidgeting, moving their tongue around, or sticking fingers in their mouths
If you notice this, give us a call right away.
Schedule a checkup for you and your family
As soon as your children have teeth, they should be going to the dentist twice a year for a checkup. Here at Ericson Dental, your child’s very first visit will be a chance to help them feel comfortable in a dentist office environment. We call these “chair ride” visits. We’ll invite your child to come sit in the patient chair, chat with the team, and get acclimated to the office.
Remember: we’re your partner in great dental health for the whole family. If you ever have questions about caring for your child’s teeth or encouraging good habits, let us know. We want to help.
Since graduating from the USC School of Dentistry with academic honors, Dr. Ericson has been dedicated to furthering his scope of practice and helping patients feel anxiety-free through every treatment. He has completed extensive training and continuing education, excelling at two residencies in implant surgery and multiple residencies in advanced bone grafting, gum grafting, oral surgery, and surgical orthodontics. Dr. Ericson is also a graduate of the advanced prosthodontics program at the prestigious Kois Center in Seattle, WA.