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Does your kid have a dirty mouth?

If yours is like most American households, millions of germs and bacteria are thriving everywhere, from countertops and cups to toothbrushes and towels. You can't see them, of course, but they're all over the place: virus-causing micro-organisms that can contribute to as many as ten colds per year for the average child, usually the first in the family to get sick.

You can't protect your children from every germ, but you can reduce the amount they come into contact with by tackling one of the worst offenders - the bathroom.

Consider the following tips for keeping your bathroom a little less germy, and teaching your kids healthy habits at the same time:

  • Let your children be selfish just this once. Make sure each child has his or her own toothbrush, clearly marked for identification. Do not allow children to share or borrow toothbrushes and purchase new ones regularly.
  • After children finish brushing, have them rinse their toothbrushes thoroughly with tap water and allow them to air-dry. Once dry, store the toothbrushes in an upright position so they do not touch other children's toothbrushes.
  • Teach your children to spit! Parents often don't stress the importance of rinsing and spitting to their children. Think about it if your child doesn't rinse and spit after brushing, those nasty germs and bacteria they just removed from their teeth will hang out in their mouths all night long.
  • Get rid of that germy glass or cup used for rinsing! Some cold and flu viruses linger on rinsing glasses or cups for up to 72 hours plenty of time for the germs to be picked-up and passed around by several members of the family. Instead, keep a supply of one-time-use disposable cups next to the sink for your children to use when rinsing.
  • Having trouble getting your child to rinse? Select disposable rinsing cups that feature your child's favorite cartoon characters.
  • Make it fun. Brushing for one minute and rinsing for 15 seconds can seem like an eternity to children. Help pass the time by making animal sounds or humming songs while they brush and rinse.
  • Do as you say. Children learn by watching adults. Show your children that dental hygiene is important to you by brushing and rinsing after every meal. Make it a family activity!
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