Between bouts of bribery, threats, tears, negotiations, and more tears, getting my kids to brush their teeth every night looks more like a hostage situation rather than an attempt at better oral hygiene. But it doesn’t need to be like that. Brushing teeth should be a fun, positive experience. 

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, so now is the perfect time to talk about the importance of oral hygiene. With a little creativity and some patience, parents and young people can make brushing a lifelong habit. 

Here are four ways to help your kids develop a healthy habit of daily brushing.

 

1. Be the example.

Ok, grownups, how long do you spend brushing YOUR teeth? The results of a national survey published by the American Dental Association found that the average time Americans spend brushing their teeth is one minute and 52 seconds. And, that’s a little too quick; Doctors recommend brushing at least two minutes to maintain good oral health. 

The survey by Delta Dental also found that 23 percent of Americans have gone two or more days without brushing their teeth in the past year. For those aged 18 to 24, it’s 37 percent. If you want your kids to have healthy teeth and great brushing habits, being a good example is a solid place to start.

 

2. Let children choose their new toothbrush and toothpaste.

From styles with stripes, polka dots, tie-dye designs, flowers, or a favorite superhero, young people have an impressive array of toothbrush styles from which to choose. Allowing children to select their toothbrush means they are invested in this process now. And that enthusiasm may be a good motivator to brush regularly. As for the toothpaste, as long as it has fluoride, young people have a full selection of flavors to try.

For the younger kids who may have trouble handling a toothbrush, the ADA says using an electric toothbrush is a good option. “For children who are reluctant brushers or have difficulty brushing with a manual brush, an electric brush may be easier or more comfortable to use.”

 

3. Turn teeth brushing into a game.

Two minutes of brushing is essential for healthy teeth. So a great way to make the time go faster is to turn it into a game. Some families have a special teeth brushing song that they play while brushing. Guess how long the song is, that’s right! When the song is done, teeth are sparkling clean.

For younger brushers, Aquafresh introduced The Nurdles, a friendly bunch of toothpaste pals who share fun songs and brushing tips. Even as an adult, I learned something new from these little characters.

 

4. Be positive and encouraging.

Nagging isn’t helpful for developing good habits, especially brushing teeth. Oral hygiene shouldn’t feel like punishment. Instead, it is another important vehicle for healthy living. When your child is finished, be sure to offer praise for a job well done. With encouragement, your child will enjoy brushing his or her teeth. Best of all, the praise from your dentist for having no cavities and healthy gums is one of the most satisfying feelings ever.

 

We may not always know what our child eats throughout the day, but we can be sure their teeth brushing habits are in check. By setting a good example with a routine, celebrating teeth brushing with a fun toothbrush and toothpaste, and ensuring brushing is a positive, fun experience, your family will develop healthy habits that will be worth smiling about.