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Brush your teeth: Make toothbrushing fun

Debbie Rhodes, a dental assistant with Dr. Allen McCorkle, answers how you can get your kids to brush their teeth.

The question:
What's a good way to get kids to brush their teeth? My eight-year-old and I struggle with this every day. - Michelle

The expert answers:
I remember how I hated to brush my teeth when I was young. My mom and dad would send me upstairs to brush, and would check my teeth when I finished. I outsmarted them -- I would run the water, rub the toothbrush against my finger to make the brushing sound, then eat some toothpaste so my breath would smell fresh. They never caught on, but deceiving them did catch up with me -- I am no stranger to cavities! (Let me assure you that this phase quickly passed!)

I suppose that is why the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents continue to supervise the tooth-brushing process until age 12.

Debbie Rhodes, a dental assistant with pediatric dentist Dr Allen McCorkle of Winchester, Virginia, offered these suggestions:

  • Instead of brushing before bed, have your child brush right after dinner, or before a favorite television show.
  • Brush to music -- a song normally lasts between two and three minutes, and this is the ideal amount of time needed to effectively clean your teeth. Brushing to the rhythm of the music will make it more interesting.
  • Let your child use an electric toothbrush.
  • Hold your child accountable. Ask your dentist for disclosing solution or tablets (remember those little red pills we chewed to see how clean our teeth were?). This is available from most pharmacies, but if yours doesn't carry it, ask them to order it for you. After your child brushes, give him a dose so you can both see how well he did. Better yet, brush together and have a contest using the solution or tablets to see whose teeth are cleaner.

Rhodes also shared a tip that she uses with her own children -- brush their teeth in the family room. (Yes, you read that correctly.) She told me that she puts on a favorite video or TV program, sits cross-legged on the floor, positions her child's head in her lap and brushes away. (She recommends using a very small amount of toothpaste on the brush to keep the mess down.) This method allows you to see and thoroughly clean all of their teeth.

Having clean teeth is very important, and your child will soon realize this. Until he does, use these strategies to encourage him to keep his choppers charming!

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