How to Get Children Excited About Toothbrushing

27 January 2023

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Does teeth time become tantrum time in your household? Check out our blog for our top tips to get the little ones brushing.

From the moment children’s teeth erupt, they need brushing. Experts say children’s teeth need cleaning twice a day – and the same goes for adults! While this sounds fine in theory, does teeth time become tantrum time in your household?

Head shakes, crying, and firmly shut mouths are daily struggles for parents when teaching children the brushing basics. In this post, we’ve listed some fun ways to motivate your child to brush from newborns all the way to their first visit from the Tooth Fairy!

0 – 6 months

Although baby teeth don’t usually emerge until around six months, you can gently wipe their gums with a damp washcloth or gauze pad. This is best done after feeding and before bed. Importantly, a toothbrush or toothpaste isn’t needed at this age. Be soothing and gentle, as babies are at a delicate stage of development.  

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6 – 18 months

This age is often where the trouble begins, as it’s when the toothbrush enters the picture. This can be particularly problematic for highly sensitive or autistic children. However, small changes to your brushing routine can ease the experience for any child:

  • Sing songs while brushing
  • Use lukewarm water – children aren’t ready for toothpaste at this age, and water’s that’s too cold can irritate sensitivity
  • Use a mirror to ensure slow circular motions in all corners of the mouth
  • Play music (soothing for younger children, upbeat for older)
  • Be gentle, but thorough 

Furthermore, children love to imitate adults. Brushing your teeth alongside them is a great way to get them to take the initiative. Additionally, children thrive on independence. Tying their shoelaces or pouring their cereal are big steps for the little ones. Therefore, framing toothbrushing as a grown up activity can be a huge motivator.

Lastly, always remember to always replace brushes every three months, only use a pea-sized amount of age-appropriate toothpaste and remind children to never swallow toothpaste.

18 months – 3 years

By now, children are fully immersed in the experience, with the toothbrush, low-fluoride toothpaste and flossing (when teeth touch at around two to three years old) all a part of the equation. Naturally, this may make children apprehensive with all the new routines and sensations.

Remember, toothbrushing is repetitive – needed twice every single day – so it’s understandable if children get bored, as they often avoid difficult tasks. They prefer what’s familiar and easy. Also, young children don’t understand long term consequences for their actions. If their teeth aren’t rotting that second, they don’t see the problem.

Some activities to get children brushing at this age include:

  • Star charts – a reward system to encourage brushing for consecutive days.
  • A fun toothbrush – try your child’s favourite character, colour or design.
  • Bring in a stuffed toy – children feel in charge when ‘brushing’ their favourite toy’s teeth, so getting teddy involved can be the difference.
  • Apps – there are loads of apps from Disney, the Wiggles and many more which offer an immersive brushing experience.
  • Picture books – there are countless board books about the importance of brushing teeth which pairs perfectly with story time.
  • Get the family involved – children look up to family members, so get brothers, sisters, mum, dad, grandparents or cousins into the picture – whoever it takes to get them brushing!
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3 – 6 years

At this age, children are more attuned to their environment. Therefore, you can start adding more complex elements like games, educating them about why toothbrushing is important and, of course, the Tooth Fairy! Although children don’t start losing their baby teeth until around age six, you can begin introducing them to the idea. Be sure to remind them that the Tooth Fairy only accepts clean teeth!

Nevertheless, there’s no one method or life hack to get children brushing. Each child is different and responds to encouragement in their own unique way. Therefore, it’s best to experiment and borrow elements from different approaches to discover what works best for your child.

By around six, children develop the necessary responsibility and motor skills to brush independently. Of course, this doesn’t mean they’ll magically start brushing morning and night without issue. Rather, managing children’s healthy brushing habits continues well into adolescence. If unchecked, poor habits can bleed into adulthood and lead to a variety of physical, psychological, social, and even financial issues for your child.

Overall, getting children brushing early in life is crucial to developing long-term hygiene habits. After all, it’s more than just to maintain a good smile, although that is a nice perk.

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