Updated: Feb 3
If your kids have teeth, they should probably be brushing their teeth. We know the general rules, and that seem to hold true even today: Brush twice a day, brush for at least two minutes and floss daily. It’s one thing to make your kid brush their teeth using bribery and threatening to take away privileges. It’s another thing to motivate your kids to want to brush their teeth. Last year I was creating an app called Toothbrush Buddies and I came up with some ways that may help win the battle of the brushes. I believe I found some ways to motivate your kids to want to brush their teeth.
Note: This app has been removed from the app store.
Sometimes kids need a friend to help brush their teeth
Explain Why Kids Brush Their Teeth
The words “Because I said so” is a lame excuse for a kid to do something. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really effective short term, especially when you use a really scary voice and arch your eyebrows. But it’s better in the long term to explain to kids that their teeth, gums and tongue need to be brushed twice a day to keep them clean, healthy and strong. Hey Kid, Not Brushing, is Disgusting Brushing cleans out food and sugar that can one day cause cavities. But the term one day is an abstract concept for a young kid. You might as well say a million years from now you will get a cavity, and who cares about that. To make brushing more tangible in the present I also tell my kids that brushing can get rid of bad breath and yellow teeth. Feel free to bring up trolls with stinky yellow teeth. I remind my kids, you don’t want your mouth to smell like you brushed your teeth with a dirty diaper.
Establish a Daily Routine
People are creatures of habit and kids are not different. If they brush at the same time each day for a month, they will probably continue to do so. Pick two specific times a day and set an alarm if necessary, here is a good one. When I was developing toothbrush Buddies I included a 2-minute timer so kids and parents could be reminded when to brush. Because, let’s face it, we forget to tell them to brush too. If bedtime is 8:30, then brushing their teeth at 7:55 gives them 5 minutes to brush and another half an hour to hang out and wind down before bed.
Set up external rewards, at first.
Let kids pick out their own toothbrush at the supermarket. This can get younger kids excited to brush so they can use their new Spongebob Toothbrush Set or Spiderman toothpaste. You can reward them after brushing consistently for a week straight with a night at the movies. I set up a point system in my app to reward the kids to keep a streak going. The more you brush using the two minute timer, the more characters that are unlocked.
Whatever you reward you use, the goal is to associate good feelings with brushing. Using a 2 minute song as a timer can be super helpful. This one is my favorite. Something to keep them jazzed.
Screenshots from the World’s Greatest Toothbrush App.
Make it a family event
The other day, I caught my 10 year old in the bathroom teaching my 1 year old how to brush his teeth. It was wonderful. Having the kids pile into the bathroom to brush together can be chaos but it can be fun too. If I’m showing someone how to brush their teeth, I’ll brush mine as well. This can take the edge off and show how them “this is just something that humans do so other people can tolerate being near us”.
No One Leaves the House Until They Brush their teeth
If we get in the car and I ask them if they brushed their teeth and they say no, then we all wait in the car until they get back from brushing. That’s it. I don’t care where we are going, which makes this rule extra annoying.
Floss to be the Boss
Incorporate flossing into the night time routine. Floss sticks are quick and easy. I need to help my kids floss once a month or so just to make sure they are getting every tooth.
In the news recently, there was a story about Flossing possibly being bad for you. http://www.bbc.com/news/health-36962667 My son and I were in the Dentist office when this story came on TV. The talking head said “Does flossing your teeth really help prevent cavities?” the dentist laughed to the assistant. She said, “Are they serious, well at least this news story gives us some job security.”
Every Brushing Counts
Some people’s teeth are soft and get cavities more easily than most, no matter how much you brush. So making the daily habits early on can make the difference in how much metal is your mouth holes. If you have read this far, I’m gonna let you in on a secret, my kids teeth get cavities super easily. It really sucks. Our dentist recently moved to an office double the size of the old office. I believe that our frequent visits paid for half of it.
Bonus Tip– Skip the Gummy Bears, Sweedish Fish, Gummy Worms, and Gummy Vitamins. There is no more efficient way to clog sugar into the crevices of teeth than these sticky disgusting gummy products.
Need some help to get the kids to brush their teeth? Don’t miss a brushing with the toothbrush-buddies!
Download this App to Get Your Kids To Want To Brush Their Teeth