If you have difficulty convincing your children to floss and brush their teeth every day, you’re not alone – in fact, studies have shown that even most adults find flossing unpleasant and brushing a chore, and that they would prefer oral hygiene take a backseat to other health routines. By instilling a sense of positivity around dental hygiene from a young age, you can teach your children to tolerate and even enjoy mundane but necessary activities maintaining their oral health.
Flossing. A study conducted by a national periodontal organization found that more than ¼ of people lie to their dentist about how much they floss, and a survey by the American Dental Association found that only 4 in 10 Americans floss every day – and that 20% of us never floss at all. With these numbers, it’s believable that children would avoid flossing as much as their parents and adult role models do. Getting children to enjoy flossing, however, shouldn’t be a chore.
Brushing. While brushing is a bit less involved than flossing, getting the back-and-forth motion down can be challenging, especially for young children who are still developing their motor skills. Many adults even struggle to brush their teeth the recommended twice per day, and many of those who do don’t carry on the activity for the recommended two full minutes. Starting good brushing habits at a young age can be a game changer for dental health later on in life.
Make it Fun!
- Play Games, Give Rewards. Children respond to positive reinforcement, which conditions good behavior with rewards. Many parents have found success with a sticker board, which offers the child a sticker every time they brush or floss. When they fill up one row of the chart, they receive a small, or large, reward, depending on how many rows they’ve filled. Creating a competition between you and your child can encourage consecutive days of flossing: whoever flosses more days in a row wins a prize. Some toothbrush manufacturers offer toothbrushes that play a song for the duration of a child’s brushing time, which can help distract the child from the unfamiliar feeling. However you choose to inspire your child, make it something that they’ll want to do every day.
- Let Them Make Choices. Often, when children are presented with a strict demand, especially for an already unpleasant activity, they will rebel against it on principle. Especially once young children learn to say “no,” getting them to do even simple tasks can become a long process. The easiest way around this for some parents is to present their children with as many options as the activity allows. This can be as simple as allowing your child to choose whether they floss in the morning or at night, or letting them pick their flavor of toothpaste. Giving your child some element of control over their chore gives them the sense that dental hygiene is their choice, not their parent’s command.
- Get The Right Stuff. Your child may be averse to flossing because it can be uncomfortable. A string of floss wrapped around small fingers or a waxed floss that feels scratchy on their tongue can turn a child off to the idea of flossing. Have your child try a flossing tool if they have a hard time holding a string of floss or moving it between their teeth. Many flossing tools are disposable, meaning your child gets to open up a new little novelty one every night. Comparatively, some toothpastes may not taste great to your child’s sensitive taste buds, so allow them to choose the flavor they like. Finally, be sure to check with your child’s dentist to ensure they’re using the right type of toothbrush; a soft-tipped brush may be more comfortable for your child, and a smaller brush head will fit inside their growing mouth more easily.