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Fun ways to get your child to brush his teeth longer

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Two minutes is a long time!

You know the guidelines: Your kids should brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes to help prevent tooth decay, cavities and promote oral health. But how often do your kids actually brush for the full two minutes? To kids, two minutes can feel like an eternity!

Kids aren't known for being good judges of time. Morning and evening are busy times in your household and the last thing you want is another battleground issue. As such, you may have been a little lax on that two minute thing and flossing. But don't give up on getting your child to brush longer. Instead, make it fun. Find ways to make teeth brushing enjoyable and segue to the next part of your day with less stress and more (sparkly white) smiles.

Tools and timers

Allow your child to pick out a toothbrush in a favorite color and give some freedom in choosing an anti-cavity toothpaste. You may think the superhero sparkly toothbrush and purple grape toothpaste are ridiculous, but if your child wants to brush when using these tools, that makes all the difference! Pre-brushing rinses can help your child see where extra attention needs to be paid during brushing -- and blue grins look awfully silly in the mirror.

Some battery operated toothbrushes are designed to remove plaque and buildup more efficiently -- and time your child's brushing. If you don't have such a brush, place a timer in the bathroom. Electronic timers are readily available, but if you can find a small two minute hourglass timer, even better. Watching the mesmerizing sand fall can make brushing and flossing feel like a zen experience.

Songs and rhymes

If timers aren't your thing, try songs or rhymes. You can either play a favorite song and have your child brush until it's over, or sing it yourself. Rhymes are great not only because they are silly and funny, but also because eventually your child will learn all the words and be able to recite it in their head when you aren't around.

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If your children are competitive in nature, capitalize on that sibling rivalry with a game of "Who can brush longer?" If they have to compete constantly, at least they can improve dental health while they are at it.

Rewards

If your child responds well to sticker charts and rewards systems, by all means, use those! Perhaps it's a sticker for every full two minute brushing and a reward for every week completed. However, choose the reward carefully. Candy as a reward for good oral hygiene practices sends a mixed message.

No matter what incentives you use, teaching your child about dental health and cavity prevention is important for overall health. Better to learn early and learn fun than to have to face reprimands from the dentist, cavities or worse. A lifetime of beautiful smiles will be the ultimate reward for all of you.

More on kids and oral hygiene

Cavity prevention tips for pre-school age children
Preparing for the first visit to the dentist
Preparing your child for braces

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