How To Get Your Kids To Brush Their Teeth
A pediatrician shares her tricks
So I'm standing next to one of my boys playing Foosball on the same side of the table - cause mom needs all the help she can get on this--and I notice the smell. It drifts in and out of range but is definitely a smell and it is bad. I don't want to embarrass my kid so I wait until the game is over and then gently - I hope - suggest that he might want to brush his teeth. He is old enough that this works.
I have more than once used the "you don't want to be the kid that smells" tactic on my kids and once they are school age it usually works to get them to brush their teeth. In elementary school most kids don't care about life long health but they do care about friends and teachers. I prefer not to use star or sticker charts as I find they are more work for parents--but if this works in your family go for it.
Toddlers are another creature entirely. I suggest that parents start cleaning babies teeth early not only for health but to get them used to it. Under 1 year it can be as simple as wiping the teeth with a wet washcloth, but at 1 year I have families starry using a toothbrush. There are lots of little tricks out there to keep toddlers brushing. My favorites are singing or counting while brushing--same song every night--they love routine. Once toddlers get into the "I can do it myself now" stage, get 2 toothbrushes. Let the toddler "brush" with one and the parent can use the other at the same time to really brush. Does all of this fail sometimes--yes. I have I held my toddlers down to brush their teeth--yes. Have I skipped teeth brushing--yes.
For all kids one of the most important things a parent can do to protect the teeth is to keep kids off of sweet drinks--that means no juice--and not letting them fall asleep with a bottle or cup of milk after age 1 year.
I have seen many toddlers and young children over the years require anesthesia and surgery to repair decayed teeth. This is entirely preventable with good dental care. Please ask your pediatrician if you need help in carting for your childs teeth or contact one of the Cook Children's dentists.
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Vanessa Charette, M.D., has been a pediatrician at Cook Children's for 10 years and is located in Fort Worth. Dr. Charette embraces the many components that contribute to health nutrition, physical activity, emotional, psychological stresses and the environment. As your pediatrician she will spend time with you discussing nutrition, child development and take the time to address any concerns you have about your child's health.