Getting your child to brush their teeth can be overwhelming. As teeth are either growing or falling out, your child's mouth is sensitive and brushing may be uncomfortable for them. Your child may also try to assert their independence by rebelling against you. Furthermore, gum disease and cavities are not strong enough incentives for children to get in the habit of brushing. This is where a little creativity and patience can come a long way. Here are five ways to get your child to brush their teeth and make it a lifelong habit.
1. Start early
Brushing should begin as soon as your child's first tooth comes (usually around 6 months of age). Baby teeth are place holders for permanent teeth, thus it is important to establish healthy oral habits early on. Make sure to also brush consistently, twice a day for two minutes at a time, so that brushing becomes second nature to your child.
2. Set an example
Toddlers are constantly observing and mimicking their parents, so it's important to be a good role model during this critical developmental period. Brush your teeth alongside your child to show them how it's done.
3. Reward positive behavior
To motivate your child to brush their teeth so it becomes a life-long routine, use positive reinforcement. For example, make a reward calendar and add a sticker to the calendar every time the child brushes their teeth without being told to. After a week of consistent brushing, reward your child with an extra 10 minutes of TV before bed or a bed time story.
4. Make it fun
Make tooth brushing a fun event that your child will look forward to. For example, you can make it a game, where they are a superhero and their objective is to kill the cavity monsters populating the teeth before two minutes run out. You can also turn on some fun tunes and make it dance party while you brush your teeth together. Switch it up every time to motivate your child.
5. Let them choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste
Toothbrushes come in a variety of colors and toothpaste comes in multiple flavors. Let your child choose the toothbrush and toothpaste s/he likes with their favorite colors, flavors, and characters from TV shows or movies. Children that take the lead are more likely to make brushing a personal habit.
Remember to be patient with your child and to encourage them to brush their teeth, instead of punishing them if they do not brush. By adopting some of these strategies, your child will be independently brushing their teeth in no time!