Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth: 8 Tips and Tricks (Plus One)

By now, you’ve probably seen some of the sample daily schedules for kids being shared on social media. Parents and teachers understand the importance of routine and consistency in a child’s life and know that this stability is essential for strong mental health. So, while we’re starting new habits and practicing routine, we thought it’d be great time to share some ideas for encouraging reluctant brushers to be more enthusiastic about caring for their oral health!

Help Kids Know What to Expect

So much anxiety comes from not knowing what to expect and there’s a lot of sensory stimuli involved in toothbrushing.  Reading books and watching videos about toothbrushing, morning and bedtime routines and going to the dentist can help prepare your child.  Talk about how the brush “tickles” your teeth and discuss the flavor of the delicious new toothpaste you got! Let really young kids gnaw on brushes without paste to get used to the feel of the brush in their mouths.

Make Sure Your Kids See You Brush and Floss.

Monkey see, monkey do. This one is major because modeled behavior is what sticks with kids most.  If you never saw your parents floss, chances are, you don’t do it much either! Not saying you can blame your folks for your current habits, but we know many behaviors (or lack thereof) are passed down from parent to child.  On the positive side of that, if you watched your parents take care of their teeth and visit the dentist regularly, you probably value your oral health, too!

Brush each other’s teeth

Letting your child brush YOUR teeth is a great way to get them excited about brushing.  Try it simultaneously–brush your child’s teeth at the same time he/she brushes yours and mirror each other’s actions.  Distraction can go a long way…

Make brushing and flossing a game.

Use a flashlight and “check for plaque bugs” to make sure you got them all when brushing!  Your child will likely want to help, looking in his or her own mouth to find any fuzzy plaque that was missed.  “Chase the bugs” into dark corners where there are hard to reach areas!

Have a “play toothbrush” for dolls and stuffed animals.

Encourage your child to brush his/her bear’s teeth, making sure to “get every tooth!”  Be sure to talk to children about not putting the play brush in their own mouths. We don’t share toothbrushes because we don’t want to share germs!

Give kids some options.

Let your kids pick their toothbrushes and toothpaste flavor.  Sure, they may pick the paste based on which cartoon character is on the tube–but when they feel like they had some choice in the matter, they’re more likely to be excited about using the product.  If you’re unable to find a paste kids like, it’s okay to start with just a wet brush and get them used to the brushing sensations first, then add paste once they’ve become accustomed to the brushing.  Electric brushes are also a great option and many kids find them more fun than a manual brush, especially when they have bells and whistles. Most have built-in timers so the child knows when brushing is done.  Using a kitchen timer, sand timer, or timer on your phone works, too!

Give kids some options, part 2.

A great trick I’ve learned from my sister, a mother of two, is to give kids the illusion of control.  Give them two options, each of which makes you the real winner, but lets them know what to expect! For example, you say, “We can go get ready for bed now or in five minutes.”  Your kid will choose five minutes every time, but the point is, you still win! The trick is, you have to enforce it once five minutes is up. If you haven’t been sticking to your word up until now, you’ll have to do this and stick to it several times before there’s no longer a fight, but it WILL work!  (Pro tip: My sister uses this strategy ALL the time. “Do you want to finish your carrots or your broccoli?”; “We will be leaving the park soon. Do you want to play on the monkey bars or the swings for two more minutes?”)

Sing a toothbrushing song.

This one goes back to the routine.  Sing the same toothbrushing song every time you brush, even during brushing, to make the time pass.  Play the video on your phone the first few times so everyone learns it. Here’s a link to a simple song that’s definitely an earworm but will have your child singing about toothbrushing in no time!

Use your dental team as reinforcement.

This one’s simple.  Sometimes parents need backup.  So you say, “Remember what the dentist said–we’ve been missing this spot back here and we need to brush it really well so you don’t get a cavity!”  Be careful not to scare your child or use visiting the dentist as punishment. Keeping things positive will help everyone involved!

In Conclusion

Those are a few of the tips that we particularly like and have used. What about you? Do you have any ways tips on getting kids to brush their teeth? Let us know in the comments below!


Comments (1)

Olivia Smart
June 9, 2022 at 10:38 am

Thank you for explaining that you should make sure to watch or observe them brush their teeth. I want to get my kids in the habit of brushing their teeth. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind while they’re still learning.

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