Tips to make dental care at home easier for both parents and kids.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” is perhaps the most asked question in any under-12-year-old household. As much as we love them, our kids have what feels like the memory of a goldfish—three seconds is plenty of time for them to forget you told them to brush and floss before bed. Now before you raise your hands in defeat, here are 5 ways to make tooth brushing more routine for your child.

1. Make tooth brushing and flossing a game.

You may be okay with staying glued to the sink and watching the tooth brushing motions, but your child would probably get bored in the first five seconds. Instead, try telling your child it’s time to brush, then pretend to do it in all the wrong places—behind your ears, under your chin, or even your hair. Perhaps you may also turn the tables on them, hold your toothbrush and say you don’t feel like brushing your teeth today and you hope your dentist doesn’t find out. Give your child a playful look and they’ll soon be telling you why it’s important to brush your teeth. Turn these four minutes (two for brushing and the rest for flossing) into a game to help add positive reinforcement to this good oral hygiene routine.

2. Motivate them with tooth brushing rewards.

Kudos. Great job. Amazing work. These are words everyone likes to hear, no matter their age. Add a little reward for a job well done and you’ve got yourself a solid strategy to keep cavities and plaque at bay. Use a tooth brushing chart like this one to keep track of your little one’s oral hygiene routine. Let them know that if they brush their teeth twice a day every day for the next, say, four weeks, you’ll give them a prize. If they do brush, but miss two or three days, they’ll still get a prize but it will be smaller. If you have more than one child, you can turn this into a challenge where the one who has the most consistent days of brushing gets the biggest prize. Now that you’ve put a big shiny object (your prize) at the end of a boring regular oral routine, your kids will start reminding you it’s time to help them brush their teeth.

3. Stick to a tooth brushing routine.

We don’t know about you, but at your favorite family dentist in Middletown, Ohio, we love routines. It helps us stay organized and always know what to expect. Routines also come in handy when you’re trying to make tooth brushing part of your child’s everyday life. Even if your child doesn’t enjoy doing it, they’ll always know when it’s coming. And the more your child brushes before bed and after breakfast, the more good oral hygiene becomes part of their routine, and (hopefully) you’ll get less pushback over time.

4. Set a great example.

When it comes to teaching your kids new stuff, imitation is a powerful tool. Studies have shown there is a direct correlation between your child’s powers of imitation and their language and social development in the first two years of their life. Our children watch and model their behaviors on us. So if your child has never seen you floss or brush, is it a stretch if they look at oral hygiene as a punishment?

Let your child watch as you go through your oral routine. Emphasize the circular motions of the brush. Roar like a lion and open your mouth wider than usual to show them how important it is to reach all the nooks and crannies at the back of the mouth. Remember to also stick out your tongue so you can brush it, and make a point of pointing to your gums as you massage them. Once you’ve rinsed, you can even take a selfie making goofy faces so your child can see that good oral hygiene is not a punishment but an activity to protect your smile.

5. Read books with them about oral health and teeth.

Does your child love it when you read to them? Is it a sacred part of your bedtime routine? Great! Let’s make it a learning opportunity where you can teach them all about the importance of good oral hygiene. The Tooth Book by Dr. Seuss explains how teeth grow and how to take care of them. And with a little help from the characters of The Crocodile and the Dentist, your child may start to understand how brushing and flossing can prevent toothaches. Since regular visits to the dentist are also a critical part of dental care, don’t forget to read What to Expect When You Go to the Dentist to prepare your little one for their upcoming dental appointment and turn it into a positive experience.

Let us help you.

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make tooth brushing a routine for your child is to let the team at Great Miami Dental help you. Sometimes just hearing from mom and dad on the importance of brushing and flossing isn’t enough. Let an outsider (and authority figure—hello! dentist) like Dr. Lang educate your child and reinforce what you’ve been saying for years. All you have to do is fill in this online form to schedule your next dental cleaning or checkup, show up with your little one on D-day, and we’ll take care of the rest. See you soon!