The Art of War – Children and Brushing
One of the most difficult challenges parents face, is getting their children to brush their teeth. This struggle becomes more of a battle as the child becomes older. Here are a few suggestions that can help monitor and encourage better brushing habits.
Why do Children Not Brush?
The most common response I would get from children who didn’t brush their teeth was “Oh, I forgot.” The problem is, they would forget…DAILY!
I would see children come into the office with bleeding and inflamed gums, but not a lick of plaque in the easy to reach places. However, with a trained eye and proper knowledge, I would find the harder to reach areas covered in plaque. This discovery made it evident that the child was not brushing properly, and made a last ditch effort to clean them before I would take a look.
Some children would say brushing and flossing hurt their gums and made them bleed. Unfortunately, due to poor oral hygiene, adults can usually relate to this statement and have sympathy for the child. Barring a severe autoimmune disease or blood disorder, bleeding gums is a sign of inflammation and poor oral hygiene habits. This issue can be cured – THROUGH DAILY BRUSHING.
Bottom line, children don’t brush their teeth because they don’t appreciate the importance of good oral hygiene, nor do they understand the potential impact financially for mom and dad, certain self-esteem issues, and pain and missed school for a toothache. Additionally, if a child is unable to tie their shoes, then they don’t have the coordination to do an effective job brushing. Parents should either help or monitor children until they develop good brushing habits – usually until around age 7.
I recall when I began going to the dentist during my third year of undergraduate studies, and how costly my lack of oral hygiene had become. Five fillings later, I began to brush twice a day and floss nightly. I was 21 years old, and since have had one cavity! It is never too late to start proper oral hygiene habits.
How to Encourage Children to Brush
The most effective way to encourage young children to brush their teeth is to start early. If they are reluctant, then consider making a game out of brushing. We would hand out brushing calendars to new patients and advised parents to track their progress. The idea was to create a reward system for consistent success.
Initially, begin with a week of success, and then progress to two weeks and so on. Ultimately, the goal if for the child to achieve one month of consistent brushing and flossing habits.
Another tool would be using apps on smartphones or tablets. There are songs, games, instructionals, timers, and “How-To’s.” Check out my recent review of “Star Wars Toothbrushes” to see a cool toothbrush that Firefly makes.
As children get older, parents should not have to monitor their children’s brushing habits as close. Unfortunately, this becomes the danger zone and one day the child comes to our office and has several new cavities that were never present. The parents then begin to panic, question, and become frustrated. You can find out more information on this topic at my previous post “Why Does My Child Have Cavities?”
Effectively Monitor Your Child’s Brushing
Older kids are intelligent, and they have devised ways to dupe their parents. The classic move I would often hear about included the “wet the toothbrush and rinse with mouthwash” trick. However, the only one that ultimately is duped is the child and the dental problems that will soon develop.
A great tool for parents to use is Dental Plaque Disclosing Tablets or Rinse. There is no getting around this detective device, and children will hate that mom and dad can actually see the truth.
I hope this article was helpful, and please feel free to place your questions or comments below.
Remember, you only have to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep!
Until next time,