How do I get my kids to brush and floss?

I’m a dentist AND a Dad. I understand how hard it is to get your kids to brush their teeth regularly. However, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to keep trying.

My kids are all professional hygienists!

I think there is this crazy – yes, crazy! – idea that the children of dentists are all really good at brushing and flossing all the time. Let me be the first to dispel that myth!

My girls were ok. They were pretty easy. At least willing to brush and floss when I told them to. And more able to keep their mouths open and cooperate when I was still doing it for them as young children.

But my boys were always hard. I’d just say to them, “look, we are going to do this the easy way or the hard way. But we ARE going to do it!” And it didn’t take long for them to learn that the easy way is better. But I did have to do it the hard way a few times. And sometimes remind them of it when they forgot why the easy way is easier.

That might be too much for some people but a firm rule is good for kids. And be ready to follow through with what you’ve said.

For some, it might be that they only get to read one book instead of two books before bed that night if they don’t brush their teeth. Or maybe that they can have their favorite mid morning snack in an hour if they do a good job brushing their teeth after breakfast. There are a lot of ideas out there about how to encourage good oral hygiene in young kids.

The Tools of the Trade

kids flossing dentistMy kids have electric toothbrushes. On some nights I hear it turn on and then 10 seconds later they are on their way out of the bathroom! That usually gets them a loud, “back in there and do it right this time!” shout from me.

But if they are doing it twice a day that’s at least something. And an electric toothbrush really does an incredible job. Way better than a manual one could do, even if the kids aren’t trying really hard.

Flossing daily is important as well. This one is sometimes much harder. But these days, even if they don’t quite have the skills to floss, there are a lot of tools that you can use to make it easier. The floss holders or even those disposable single use flossers might be just the trick you need to make it work for you and your kids.

What ages should they be brushing and flossing?

modern-dental-baby-brush-teethDo your kids have teeth?

Then they should be brushing and flossing!

But really, do what you can for them no matter what their age is. If you have a baby with one tooth, then get those very soft, finger brushes and gently rub the tooth. Again, the important thing here is not just to get some of the plaque off of the tooth but to establish as early as possible that brushing is essential for health. And that it’s nothing to be scared of or worried about.

It’s good for kids under 6 to have their parents brush and floss for them since they don’t know how to do it themselves thoroughly enough to do a good job. Parents could do it one of the two times each day or both. Most kids under 6 don’t have the dexterity to floss well. And, as most of you know, they rarely have the desire to do a good job. So it’s up to you!

Success Can Be Yours!

There are a lot of stories of failure in home care but there are also stories of success for kids at home. We had a 13 year old in here yesterday that brushes her teeth twice a day and flosses daily. It was clear that she was doing a good job when she came in for her cleaning. Her teeth looked really, really good!

The bottom line is, that even if the brushing doesn’t always reach all the quadrants or lasts two full minutes – if you do it twice a day, consistently, then your kids will understand its importance and they will develop good habits.

Then, as they grow older, they will be better able to and more interested in caring for their oral health; which really benefits them in every other area of their lives.

~Dr. Wagner