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8 Creative Ways to Help Your Child Brush Their Teeth

A father and child in matching buffalo plaid pajamas sit on the bathroom counter, smiling at each other as they both brush their teeth.

Many parents dread getting their children to brush their teeth. Sometimes, it comes down to convincing them by any means necessary, which might include a bribe, trick, negotiation tactic, or simply begging and pleading. 

We have a few fun kid hacks for oral health to the rescue. These easy tips will have your children regularly brushing in no time..

Don’t Sleep on Your Kid’s Teeth!

Many parents and children don’t realize how important dental hygiene is. The mouth, for example, is actually the front line of defense to the digestive system. We want to make it easier for parents to keep everyone in their family in the best dental hygiene possible, starting as young, so they’re true believers and practitioners of proper dental hygiene by the time they reach their teen years.

The truth is, the best time to start practicing oral health with your kids is upon the arrival of their first tooth. That’s usually around six months. You can start out with a soft toothbrush and water or a wet cloth, wiping or gently brushing the teeth (or just one tooth!) and gums twice a day: morning and night. It’s a lifelong commitment that starts early.

Even before getting to the seven fun ways to get your children to brush their teeth, it’s important to know the basics of proper tooth brushing. It’s not rocket science, but there are a few guidelines to avoid so children don’t use too much toothpaste and potentially smear or spot their teeth as they age, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns

It’s simple enough to remember. Here are the suggestions for ages zero to six years: From ages zero to three, use the amount of a rice grain of toothpaste, and from three to six, use a pea-sized amount. Experts also encourage at least one top-notch cleaning a day that includes brushing, flossing and mouth-washing.

A toddler in a flowered shirt smiles and ponytails at the camera while brushing her teeth, as a parent stands nearby.

8 Creative Ways to Help Your Child Brush Their Teeth

Now that it’s clear what children should do when brushing their teeth, let’s look at some fun, creative ways to get them excited about doing it!

Get the Pre-Party Started

A great way to motivate children is with music. With music, they’re up and on their feet, bobbing and swaying as they smile and laugh. Capture that cheer and happy feeling with a song about brushing their teeth. The song could also be one from their favorite children’s show, cartoon, or pop song. It doesn’t matter, as long as it works. 

The song can be used in a number of ways, from signaling that it’s teeth-brushing time to the length of the song being a timer itself. It can also be played while children are brushing to keep them joyfully entertained, and distracted, until the job is done.

Here’s a fun song with Elmo, and a few other songs to inspire the little ones to happily join in on a good dental hygiene party. 

Create a Routine

Much like incorporating music to motivate and signal to the child that it’s time to brush their teeth, establishing this twice daily routine helps to build healthy habits. What time is set aside in the morning and evening for brushing their teeth? Maybe instead of an exact time, it’s just something that’s done after waking up or eating breakfast, and before going to bed. 

Either way, stick to the routine of doing it every day. Routines are useful to children because it creates a sense of safety while developing life skills, and helps parents feel more organized and less stressed. Here’s a calendar, by a popular dental brand, to help keep kids on track with their routine.

Better Brushing Together

Make it a family affair. Have the whole household stop what they’re doing, and brush their teeth at the same time. You can be as creative as possible! Maybe break-off into pairs, do it one by one, or crowd into a bathroom together. 

For whatever reason, many children resist the act of brushing their teeth, but when parents and siblings serve as a clear model for good behavior, kids usually adapt. If they see that all of the big kids and adults are doing it, chances are they’ll want to do it too. The bigger picture here, besides promoting dental hygiene, is that it brings the family together in a fun and healthy way.

Let Them Practice

Just as children learn from watching others, they also learn from lots of practice. Have them practice on their favorite doll or stuffed animal. Even more exciting for them might be to practice on you, the parent. 

Use the Power of Stories & Characters

Children usually love TV cartoon characters, superheroes, or children’s show characters. Look to them as inspiration. Do a little digging to see if there aren’t already videos or songs of them encouraging children to brush their teeth, like the Elmo song above.

If there isn’t any material already available that you can use, be creative and make it up. Use the child’s favorite character as a star role in a story about the importance of brushing their teeth. If they refuse to brush their teeth, ask what that character would think, feel, or say. If they have a toy or a picture of their favorite character, bring it along with them every time they brush their teeth, so the child and character are doing it together.

Give the Gift of Choice

Some parents also call this the illusion of control. Either way, inviting children to participate in the whole process of overall oral health gets them invested in the outcome. It becomes an exciting choose-your-adventure for oral health. 

Ways of doing this include shopping for toothbrushes and letting them choose. If given free range, the choices can be as varied as choosing between colors and sizes to their favorite cartoon or superhero character on a toothbrush. Another method could be selecting several appropriate toothbrushes for them, and then letting them choose which one to take home.

The toothpaste selection can be done similarly. Allowing them to change their toothpaste from time to time, if they don’t like the one they have or just to keep things spontaneous, could serve as motivation and something to look forward to.

Make Dental Hygiene Literally Rewarding

Design a reward system that motivates children. Ideas like collecting stamps or stickers on a sticker board works well. Another option is to have them pick a book for their bedtime story, or the shirt they’ll wear the next day for school. The younger the kids are, the more fun you can have. The important thing is to have a sense of what they’re interested in and what would motivate them. Again, letting them have a say-so in nominating their award or how they’ll be rewarded gets them participating and invested in their own oral health.

Play Mirror-Mirror

Get down to the level of the child, and get face to face. Now, play a game of mirroring. The child has to do what you do. Start with brushing your teeth in the front, then the sides and back. Show them how to move the brush, up and down and round and round until the two minutes of brushing is up.

Getting children to want to brush their teeth can be difficult, but incorporating just a few of these fun and creative ideas should be a great jumpstart to getting them involved faster and easier.

Ashburn Children’s Dentistry Helps Make Dental Hygiene Fun!

At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we have been growing healthy faces for over 16 years. We believe that teeth health can have a huge impact on children’s overall well being –physically, socially, and academically. We aim to diagnose and resolve the root of any dental issue, rather than treat the symptoms alone. 

Contact us to set up an appointment today.

A child in red and white striped pajamas smiles at the camera while she is about to brush her teeth in the bathroom.