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Top 10 Tips To Get Kids To Brush Their Teeth

Does brushing time illicit tears and tantrums? The agony sometimes associated with oral hygiene can cause parents to toss up their hands in defeat.

They are not alone. In an Ad Council survey released on August 14, 2012, one-third of respondents said they argued with their children at least once a week about brushing their teeth. Additionally, 60 percent of parents with children ages 12 or younger report that they do not regularly help their children brush their teeth or check to make sure they’ve done a good job.

We know getting kids to brush isn’t always easy. Here are 10 tips to help encourage your children to pick up a toothbrush and dental floss:

  1. Use a fun brush
  2. Let your child pick out his or her toothbrush. Sometimes having a fun shape, cartoon-character theme, or electric toothbrush is enough to get kids excited about brushing. If such versions aren’t in your budget, let your child select one in his or her favorite color.

  3. Offer incentives
  4. Make a chart and keep track of how often your child brushes and flosses. Allow him or her draw a checkmark with a colorful marker or place a sticker on it after performing each. Perhaps the activity is the reward. You might also consider setting a goal and providing a fun toothbrush or non-food treat as a reward for reaching it.

  5. Employ the Internet
  6. There are numerous online oral health campaigns aimed at getting kids to brush. This summer’s music video sensation “Teach Me How to Brushy” and, a new website from the Ad Council and The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives, both offer fun entertainment just perfect for the amount of time it takes to brush. Just remember to follow it up with floss!

  7. Educate
  8. Instead of simply telling your kids they need to brush and floss, remind them why it’s important. Explain how teeth grow and what happens when we don’t care for them. Visit sites like and the American Dental Association’s for child-focused educational videos and information.

  9. Get the dentist involved
  10. When you take your child in for his or her next exam and cleaning, be sure to let the dentist and hygienist know about your brush-time battles. He or she will demonstrate proper technique and provide reminders about why brushing and flossing are important.

  11. Lend a helping hand
  12. Teach kids how to brush properly by brushing their teeth for them and then allowing them to take over.

  13. There’s an app for that
  14. Smartphone apps with brushing timers abound. Most of them are free and geared toward children. They include demonstrative videos, bright colors, and fun music to help make oral hygiene a little more fun. Check out Time2Brush for a good free app. Brush with Jackson is another popular app and only costs $1.99.

  15. Make it tasty
  16. Most popular toothpaste manufacturers, including Colgate, Aquafresh, Tom’s of Maine and Crest, make toothpaste formulated to kids’ tastes.

  17. Practice
  18. Have your child practice on a favorite doll or stuffed animal with an old toothbrush. Supervise and instruct. This will help him or her get a feel for the time and technique involved. Plus, the element of let’s pretend can add fun to the activity. Follow by having your child brush his or her own teeth.

  19. Join in
  20. Lead by example. You have to brush your teeth anyway, so why not do it at the same time? Have your child follow your lead, switching to different parts of his or her mouth when you do. Holding a little family brushing session twice a day might be a good way to form a habit.

Getting kids to brush is critical to their oral and overall health. Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. More than 16 million kids suffer from untreated tooth decay in the United States. Poor oral health has been linked to missed school and low academic performance.

Just remember: The tears will last momentarily, but the smile will last a lifetime.

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