Parents often ask me a mouthful of questions on how can they get their children to brush their teeth on a daily basis.  Let me try to shed light – or should I say shed some white – on the topic of tooth brushing.

First, parents need to remember that children do not have the understanding about the long-term value of good tooth care.  Instead, they view tooth brushing as a boring thing you make them do.  In addition, kids under five do not have the coordination to clean every surface thoroughly. That said here are a few suggestions that might help:

1.     Make the process more fun: Buy different colors of toothpaste or different flavors of toothpaste and let your children experiment by mixing them together.

2.     Brush with your child to set a good example. Both of you can make funny faces at the same time or have your child brush your teeth first and then you can brush theirs, which can be quite a humorous experience.

3.     Make a game of it, by naming each tooth after a food the child ate and telling them to brush that tooth and specific food  away, or by naming each tooth for a friend or relative or room in the house, and then making sure they are all cleaned by Mr. or Ms. Toothbrush.

4.     When your child is done brushing, and has done a good job, you can always pull out sunglasses to tell them you are protecting yourself from the glare of their shiny teeth.

The more your child wants to own the process of tooth brushing through fun activities like these, the easier the routine will become.

Also, remember that your child only needs a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and should try hard not to swallow it, but rather spit it out, so that fluoride does not build up in their bodies which can make their teeth develop white spots.

Hopefully, tips like this will clean up – or should I say brush away – any concerns you have when it comes to making sure your child’s teeth stay healthy.

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children’s Hospital at the University of Vermont Medical Center and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Larner College of Medicine at UVM. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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