Brushing Before Bed: How to Get into the Habit with Your Family : Proper oral care is vital for the whole family, but especially for children as their baby and adult teeth come in. However, for some families, it’s a challenge to get their little ones to stand in one place for the full two minutes, especially before bed, to brush their teeth. So here are a few tips and tricks you can use to get into the habit with your family.
Proper oral hygiene actually begins for babies before their first tooth even erupts. After feeding your baby, gently wipe their gums with a moist cloth, gauze, or a purpose-made cleaning utensil. This removes food particles and bacteria.
Then, when your child begins teething, take them to the dentist. Approach the appointment with an upbeat attitude and frame it as an adventure. Your child will learn the dentist is somewhere to be excited about visiting, rather than afraid of.
The dentist will inspect your child’s mouth and demonstrate proper brushing techniques. You can then take those techniques home with you and start the brushing practice early. Habits formed in very young childhood tend to stick with us, so starting when your child is young helps them build a foundation for good oral health later in life.
Lead by Example
Possibly the best way to get your child to brush their teeth properly is to lead by example. Children are far more likely to follow behaviors they see rather than instructions they hear. Your child will model your behavior in terms of how often you brush your teeth, so instead of brushing alone in your bathroom, include your child. Invite them in or brush around the house wherever your child is, so they can see you participating in this essential task.
You should also lead by example in terms of attitude. Don’t sigh, roll your eyes, or impatiently tap your foot when you’re brushing your teeth. Project an attitude of enjoyment and fun (even if you’re bored out of your mind) and your child is more likely to view brushing as an enjoyable experience.
You can also make it a family affair where you all brush your teeth at the same time. Children like to be included in adult’s activities, so making the bedtime teeth brushing habit something everyone participates in can help.
Make it Fun
For young children, you can find countless songs and videos on the internet with bright colors and engaging characters to help them pass the two minutes they need to brush their teeth. There are also specialty toothbrushes that sing their favorite catchy tune to be a memory hook for them and make the experience more enjoyable.
As kids age, it may get a little more complicated to keep them engaged. Try gentle fitness challenges like seeing who can stand on one leg or stay on their tip toes for the entire time. You can also try having them help with mild housework, like a tag-team loading or unloading of the dishwasher. You’d be surprised how previously mundane chores can become more fun just because you use only one hand (and probably not your dominant one!).
Your oldest kids, the ones who potentially have their own cell phones, can probably be motivated to brush if they can scroll their social media feeds or play a mobile game at the same time. Theoretically this is a win-win, because once they catch up on their feeds, they may be less likely to be absorbed over breakfast or in the car ride to school.
If all else fails and your little one stubbornly refuses to join in the bedtime brushing habit, you can use a reward system. It’s best to avoid a sugary reward, so try to find something else that motivates your child.
Perhaps they love their video games, but you usually limit screen time? For every week they brush their teeth for the solid two minutes before bed, they can earn an extra half an hour of gaming.
Or you could implement a trade. If one of their chores is folding their laundry but they hate doing it, tell them they’re off the hook for it once a month if they consistently follow the brushing habit.
These are just a few ways to help build a brushing habit with the whole family. Hopefully one of them works for you!
Aaron Smith is an LA-based content strategist and consultant in support of STEM firms and medical practices. He covers industry developments and helps companies connect with clients. In his free time, Aaron enjoys swimming, swing dancing, and sci-fi novels.
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