Brushing your teeth for a full two minutes twice a day is extremely important. My kids have been known to go into the bathroom, “brush”, and return to their activity in less than 30 seconds. Either I’m raising the world’s fastest thorough toothbrushers, or I have extremely lazy kids sometimes when it comes to toothbrushing. I’ll let you decide.
When my kids were really little, my husband or I would brush their teeth for them. Sometimes it was a struggle, sometimes it went well. Every time we brushed their teeth, though, we couldn’t wait until they could brush on their own. Eventually, we would sit and watch the kids brush their teeth, making sure they were not missing any areas or cutting their brushing time too short. Over the years we’ve tried using a timer, singing the alphabet multiple times, counting slowly to 100 and other tactics to achieve proper brushing times. Now, at 12, 13 and 15, we let them brush on their own, expecting them to do a proper job. Their dad’s a dentist for goodness sake! I do have to say in their defense, their tooth brushing skills have greatly improved over the years.
For kids, learning to brush all their teeth correctly is sometimes a daunting task. It’s so easy for them to scrub the chewing surfaces of their teeth and their front teeth quickly, feeling as though they’ve done a smashing job. What about brushing the inside surfaces of their teeth close to the roof of their mouth and their tongue? Or brushing the tooth surfaces next to their cheeks? Or brushing their tongue? Those are all important areas to brush.
The best way to teach kids (or adults!) to properly brush their teeth is to start in one quadrant, or area, spending a good 30 seconds brushing all over – top, bottom, inside and outside. For instance, after the upper right teeth are brushed for 30 seconds, move onto the upper left, then down to the lower left, next on to the lower right, and finally the tongue. It really doesn’t matter where they begin, just that 30 seconds is spent on each of the four main areas of the mouth, plus a little extra time for the tongue.
Remember parents, kids learn from you too. Let your kids watch you brush your teeth. A lively toothbrushing contest, or brushing your teeth at the same time, is always fun. Leading by example is a powerful form of teaching.
If attention is an issue, there is a website that plays cute videos designed to help keep your child focused on brushing for a full 2 minutes. Here’s a link to the website 2min2x.org. I actually recommended this website to my sister recently for my little 2 year old niece. I also found another link to a YouTube video that is engaging and colorful. This Blippi video is a hoot and demonstrates toothbrushing for kids. If you cruise the internet, there is a plethora of great information and videos to help maintain attention while brushing.
Another idea to ensure dentist recommended brushing time is to set a timer. I found fun timers for sale at retail stores and on Amazon. I found simple two-minute timers that look a lot like the sand timers in games like Scrabble. A timer on a smartphone would work to track your child’s brushing time too. There are also cute and inexpensive battery powered toothbrushes with timers included in them for children. These can be purchased at retail stores for usually less than $10.
The more fun you make proper tooth brushing, the more fun it becomes for your child. Instilling the skills to help take care of a child’s teeth early is key to preventing tooth decay. Give your little one the skills early to maintain a beautiful and healthy smile his or her entire life.
Written and submitted by Stephanie Jugovich, mom to 3 kids and employee at Pike Lake Dental Center