JK Orthodontics knows how hard it can be to get kids to engage in healthy habits. Hey, Dr. Jeff isn’t just an El Dorado Hills orthodontist; he’s a father of two young boys, so knows what it’s like to wrestle and brush teeth at the same time. While we can’t help you force your little ones to eat their green veggies, we do have some knowledge when it comes to encouraging kids and teens to brush their teeth the right way. Using the proper technique, and brushing for a full two minutes at least twice a day, is super important especially if you’re child is undergoing orthodontic treatment. You definitely don’t want to invest in straightening their teeth and then have the results diminished by cavities, stains, gum disease or, in severe cases, tooth loss. Well, Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics is here to the rescue with 10 ideas for teaching your kids to brush their teeth better:
Ensure You’re a Brushing Pro
Before you can pass on your best tooth brushing knowledge to your child, make sure you have impeccable technique yourself. The Mayo Clinic has a nice refresher on brushing basics. If your little one or teen is in the midst of orthodontic treatment, check out our guide to brushing teeth with braces so you can advise them on how to do it correctly. Even with braces, they’ll need to brush the front, back, sides and chewing surface of each tooth as well as in between and under the wires and brackets, around the gum line, the roof of the mouth and the tongue.
Uncover the Plaque
One of the biggest tooth brushing problems we see is plaque is still left on the teeth, especially by the gum line, even after brushing has been finished. PLAQUE HD® Professional with plaque-identifying Targetol Technology® shows patients where they missed when brushing by turning plaque a different color. That way they can reach every nook and cranny even when wearing braces to fight cavities and keep their gums healthy. It’s like having secret spy glasses that show you exactly where you need help. . Plus, by getting into the habit of maneuvering the toothbrush to get rid of the colorful visual evidence of plaque, they’re learning the right way to brush their teeth and good technique will become second nature.
Use the Right Toothbrush
Keeping teeth free of food and plaque is more about the technique and less about the brush. However, certain brushes can make maintaining oral hygiene easier. If your child has braces, opt for one with a smaller head to fit in those hard-to-reach spots between brackets and wires. At our office, we have an awesome tooth brushes with two rows of brushes to help fit between your braces and gums. Hard bristle brushes can be rough on the enamel and gums and make already sensitive teeth more uncomfortable, so try a soft-bristled brush. Electric toothbrushes are really great for getting teeth sparkling clean but we know they can be expensive. However, if it’s in your budget, there are some with orthodontic-friendly brush heads. For tiny tots, fun toothbrushes with characters and bright colors are the way to go.
The Right Environment
Brushing should always be done in front of a mirror. It’s important that your child or teen can see their teeth while they are brushing, so they may need a step stool to get the right height. Another part of Dr. Jeff’s advice for creating the right environment, is to make funny faces in the mirror. You want to see both your gums and your teeth, so use your free hand and pull the lips out of the way, make a growling face or the biggest smile you can, and watch to make sure your tooth brush reaches right up to the gums on both the top and bottom teeth.
Set a Timer
As we mentioned in this article, and as we’re sure you’ve heard a million times from your own dentist, every time your child brushes his or her teeth they should be doing it for two whole minutes. Keeping a timer in the bathroom can be a huge help. Often, even as adults, we’re pretty bad at gauging time. If you want to make it even more exciting, there are free apps you can download like the Disney Magic Timer App by Oral-B that not only times the brushing session but also adds a little fun to the process. Or, if your child or teen enjoys music, find a song that’s approximately two minutes in length and have them brush until it ends.
Keep a Brushing Chart
Keeping track of your kid’s brushing sessions with a brushing chart allows them to see a visual representation of their progress. Using fun stickers to mark off the days always gives younger ones a thrill. They’ll feel proud when they see the stickers add up, which helps to encourage good lifelong oral habits.
Create a Rewards System
If your kid reaches a predetermined milestone like brushing for two minutes twice a day for a full month, some positive reinforcement with a rewards system couldn’t hurt. The prizes don’t have to cost anything. It could even be something like getting to choose the next family activity or picking a movie to watch. Considering we’re in the business healthy smiles and healthy teeth here, we recommend staying away from sugary treats as a prize.
Serve as a Good Example
Allowing young kids to see you brush your teeth the right way, particularly when they’re at the age where they want to be just like mom and dad, is extremely effective. Talk them through what you’re doing and once they have the hang of it, brush your teeth together.
Turn Brushing into a Game
Adding an element of competition can make brushing seem less like a chore to a child. Simply telling a kid, “I bet you can’t brush your teeth as good as I can” is a surefire way to motivate them. Another idea? Pretend they’re on a tooth brushing game show and if they brush well and make it the full two minutes, they win. Get creative.
Demonstrate Proper Technique
Show them how to brush their teeth correctly on a doll or toy. If you’re feeling crafty, create your own fake tooth to brush. Once you’ve given them a primer, hand them the toothbrush and let them have a turn being the dentist.
Enlist the Help of Your Dentist or Orthodontist
Don’t hesitate to reach out to their dental hygienist or dentist to walk your little one through brushing their teeth correctly and have your child or teen pay attention to the technique that’s used during their cleaning. If they can’t seem to brush and floss correctly with braces on, get their orthodontist in on the action too. We’ll be more than happy to give your child guidance on good oral hygiene with braces.
Hopefully these tips for getting your kids to brush their teeth better will lead to some sparkling clean smiles. Dr. Jeff is always happy to offer pointers to his patients and the community at his El Dorado Hills, CA orthodontic office to ensure their oral health stays on track throughout their treatment and beyond. JK Orthodontics is also a proud provider of PLAQUE HD®. The plaque-identifying toothpaste is a seriously awesome breakthrough in dentistry and orthodontics and is extremely effective in encouraging proper brushing techniques. It’s especially helpful for patients with braces because the areas obscured by brackets and wires tend to get neglected. Ask about the product at your next appointment. Not a patient? Let’s change that. Contact us today for a free consultation.