“Come on! The carpool is coming!” Mom screams down the hall, hustling her kids along. “Brush your teeth.”
‘Yeah, right,’ the child thinks, throwing cold water on the bristles of a pink and purple toothbrush while gnawing on a frozen waffle. ‘I’ll get right to it.’
Does that sound at all familiar?
Maybe just a bit?
Well, come close, I have a secret to share: as a 2019 DMD Candidate at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and an aspiring pediatric dentist, I’m the first to admit that the ‘yeah, right’ child was me! I was always late to rise and slow to eat. And I most certainly never made time for the two minutes of toothbrushing each morning. So what’s a parent to do?!
I’ll tell you (with a minor cold in my throat; pardon the hoarseness on this youtube video!). After sacrificing a few too many teeth to the dentist’s drill and working with my parents to make toothbrushing fun for me as a child, I learned a thing or two about managing the morning bristle. And as a second-year dental student at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and an aspiring pediatric dentist, I’ve gathered even more expertise to finally share with you my 5 tips to make toothbrushing fun for the family:
Because who doesn’t love stickers?! Grab a poster board and some markers, and bring the family together around a sticker chart. Every time your children brush their teeth properly, at least twice a day, two minutes each time per American Dental Association guidelines, they get a sticker! If they don’t brush their teeth the right way at first, show them; help them; inspire them! Grab your own toothbrush and toothpaste, put it to your teeth, and show them how to make little circles with the bristles. Then give yourself a sticker, too, and help your child earn his/her own prize. At the end of 10, 14, maybe 30 stickers, an extra special sticker or prize is sure to come.
2. Make toothbrushing a family affair.
We all live such busy lives – work, school, soccer, art, commutes. It’s hard to find time to spend together. Yet, we all have to brush our teeth, and we all brush our teeth around the same time of day. So why not do some toothbrushing together! Even if you only have one sink, gather round with all the family and all the brushes and make those four extra minutes of togetherness count – for you and your teeth.
3. Add a little song and dance to the toothbrushing magic.
When you last went to the dentist, did you notice a little something playing in the background? Maybe a Disney song or a Top 40 hit. Perhaps some classical. Most dentists know that toothbrushing just isn’t the same without a little bit of a soundtrack, and toothbrushing at home is just the same! So grab your ipod or iphone, plug in your speakers, and put a soundtrack to your oral hygiene. Better yet, work with your kids to make up a great toothbrushing song of their own that they can sing for years.
4. Go shopping.
I know, I know. Right about now, you’re probably thinking, ‘What does shopping have to do with oral health? And really, Mirissa, we are raising a family here; we can’t afford that many splurges.’ And I hear you! But this is one splurge you and your kids will love. Put the whole family in the car, buckle up for safety, and make your way straight over to Target, Walgreens or the local store. It’s time for a new toothbrush - every 3 to 4 months, in fact, according to the American Dental Association! There are toothbrushes with princesses and action heroes, some with animals and Barney. Let your kids pick out their favorites, and watch the magic as their toothbrush becomes their new favorite toy!
And finally, my favorite:
5. Disclose a secret to the kids: toothbrushing can be a game!
In the dental profession, we have this very vibrant little ‘secret’ we like to call disclosing tablets. You’ve seen them, I’m sure: those pill shaped chewables that stain the plaque on your teeth a vibrant shade of blue or green. Well, lucky for us all, they’re not just for the dental office. You can pick some up at Target or online at Amazon, and start painting your family’s teeth each night. All of a sudden, toothbrushing as a family is a game of who has the least plaque, and who can brush all those colorful blotches away! As long as the toothbrush and toothpaste are moving in circles around your mouth for a full two minutes, this is a game well worth playing!
Certainly, there are so many more ways to make toothbrushing fun for the family, but let’s start with these five! Comment and share how these tips work for you and your family, and add your favorite tips and tricks to make toothbrushing a blast! I can’t wait to hear from you!
The doctor said she would live in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, crippled by pain. Instead, Mirissa D. Price is a 2019 DMD candidate at Harvard School of Dental Medicine and future pediatric dentist, spreading pain-free smiles, writing through her nights, and, once again, walking through her days.