Tell, Show and Do: Getting Your Child to Care About His Teeth

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Parents can help children get a good start on a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums by modeling good behavior, developing good habits at an early age, and scheduling regular dental visits.

It can even start as early as in infancy by familiarizing your child with the feel of a soft infant toothbrush or wet wash cloth as you clean their gums after mealtimes. This can begin setting a habit.

When they can use a toothbrush, give your child, even if they don’t have teeth, a soft bristle toothbrush so they can copy mom or dad.  In general, the best way to teach young children and toddlers the proper techniques of good oral hygiene is to tell, show and do.

TELL: Explain how to brush and floss and how those actions keep teeth clean and healthy. Make sure you use age-appropriate language so your child will truly understand. Let them ask questions, and make sure to answer them.

SHOW: Let children watch when you brush and floss your own teeth. Again, let them ask questions and make sure to answer them. Answer them by showing them. Sometimes using a stuffed animal can help you demonstrate.

DO: Help children brush their teeth in the morning and before bed. Keep a regular routine so they know it’s expected. Brush for at least two minutes. Sometimes teaching them a song that takes about two minutes helps. It helps them brush for the whole time, as well as makes it fun! Continue to help your child brush their teeth until they’re 4 or 5 years old. After that, let them do it themselves, but supervise and monitor until they’re 7 or 8 years old.

Remember that the proper technique and motion of brushing is very important. Teach your child to brush teeth in a gentle, circular motion. Harshly scrubbing back and forth can damage the gums. The circular motion does the best job of both removing the plaque along the gum line and massaging the gums.



Make sure your child uses a child-sized toothbrush and toothpaste made for children, too. If your child is under two years old, use a fluoride-free toothpaste (also known as training toothpaste). If your child is between two and six years old, use just a little fluoride toothpaste.

Teach children to spit out any extra toothpaste. Once children get the spitting down, they can use an anti-cavity mouth rinse after brushing. Alcohol-free rinses are best for children.

Don’t forget, flossing is just as important as brushing. You should floss your child’s teeth at least once a day. If you’re unsure of the proper technique or how to explain it to your child, ask your dentist or hygienist. They’ll be happy to help.

Make brushing teeth fun:

  • Let children pick out their own toothbrush maybe one that lights up or has a character on it
  • Let children put their own toothpaste on the toothbrush themselves (a little help from mom or dad might be needed so they don’t put too much on)
  • Get your child an electric toothbrush for best results but follow the directions that come with the brush to be effective.
  • Make a game out of brushing by singing a song or telling a story while your child brushes
    The more fun you make brushing teeth for your child, the easier it will be to get them to brush and for them to make it a habit. If done consistently, along with eating healthy and seeing your dentist regularly, your child will be well on their way to a lifetime of smiles.




Online editor for Hers magazine.

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