Being a parent also means being a teacher. You get to teach your kids manners, how to use a toilet (yay, potty-training!), sharing, and more. Many things you teach your children are important, but especially things that pertain to their physical, mental, emotional, and social health. One of those lessons is brushing teeth. When kids don’t learn how to properly brush their teeth, they are at a higher risk for developing cavities, gum disease, and having weak permanent teeth later. We want to help you avoid the negative consequences of poor dental health by educating you on how to teach your kids about healthy smiles.

When to Start Brushing

Teaching your child the importance of their teeth should start at a young age, and it begins with you. Even before your child starts teething, you should regularly use a washcloth to clear away bacteria from their gums. When they sprout their first tooth, use an infant toothbrush and an itty-bitty amount of fluoride toothpaste for brushing⁠—think about the size of a grain of rice. Once your child turns three you can start using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Spitting out Toothpaste

It is common for children to swallow their toothpaste, which can be harmful. As you teach your kids to brush their teeth, also teach them how to spit their bubbles into the sink. Try to avoid using water to rinse and spit though, as many kids end up swallowing the toothpaste water. If your child isn’t a fan of brushing their teeth, it might be because of the flavor of the toothpaste. Kids have many flavors available to them for toothpaste, so try switching it up to encourage good dental habits in your children. 

Flossing

Brushing your teeth is extremely important for removing bacteria and protecting your teeth. However, flossing is even more important than brushing as it helps remove plaque from between your teeth and in harder to reach areas. Once two of your children’s teeth begin to touch, begin teaching them how to floss.

Games

While flossing and brushing teeth doesn’t sound very fun, that doesn’t mean it can’t be. You can encourage your child to brush their teeth by making a game out of it. One game example is a copy-cat game, where you brush your teeth along with them and “get a big mouthful of bubbles, and then smile wide and let the bubbles run down your chin and into the sink.” This silly way of showing your kid to brush their teeth will allow them to have fun while still cleaning their teeth and not swallowing any toothpaste.  

Rewards

If your child needs a little extra motivation besides a game to brush their teeth, try a reward system. If they brush their teeth, then they can choose a sticker to wear, or you can reward them at the end of the week if they brushed every day by having them choose a game to play or a movie to watch. Overall your goal should be to teach your children that taking care of their teeth isn’t a chore by helping them associate dental care with fun. 
Brushing and flossing are the first steps to helping your child grow up with a happy smile and good dental habits⁠—and it can even be fun!