I anticipated many challenges in motherhood, but brushing teeth has never been one of them. Even after countless wars of diaper change and lengthy hair-washing negotiations, I never dreamed that a day would come when fighting for brushing thw teeth would come on the agenda. Until recently, this process for my already 4-year-old daughter was a stream of virtuous negotiations and long stories about life, but NOT teeth brushing 🙂
I knew there had to be something to make this daunting task more enjoyable, so I went hunting for ideas on how M to have this pearly white smile without the exhausting fuss in the bathroom. In this article, I am sharing with you (1) the findings I came accross about making toothbrushing a favorite part of the day and (2) how the Scottish Government, in the face of Childsmile, supports all parents in this task.
7 WAYS TO TURN TOOTHBRUSHING IN MISSION POSSIBLE
#1 Make it a game
I brush my teeth along with my daughter and “race” to see who can handle it faster. You can’t imagine how vigorously M brushes her teeth striving for victory. If that doesn’t work I let her brush my teeth first, then I brush hers. An added value to this exercise is that she sees how to brush her teeth properly, not just playing.
#2 Personal choice of a toothbrush and toothpaste
At home, we all brush our teeth with ORAL B Smart 6500 electric toothbrush. M decided she will be using it as well because she is “a big girl!”, as she loves to say. She chose the color to put on her brush and has so much fun brushing her teeth “like the adults”. Shes chooses her toothpaste on her own, as well, opting usually for fruit flavors with at least 1,000ppm fluoride following NHS recommendations.
#3 Reward the effort
Our electric toothbrush has a fun clock with a timer and emoticons that can be sad or happy, depending on how long you have been brushing your teeth. The main stimuli for M is to get a happy emoticon and 4 stars, making sure that she had her teeth brushed for at least 2 minutes.
#4 Play a catchy song or video about toothbrushing
As ridiculous as it may sound, this is an extremely effective and proven way for M to brush her teeth. She is in love with Blippi’s toothbrush song, which shows how to brush teeth in a funny way and lasts for 4 minutes.
#5 Countdown timer
As I mentioned earlier, our electric toothbrush goes with a fun clock that, in addition to all the emoticons and stars, shows how long she has had her teeth brushed for. If the Blippi song does not work, M always has fun tracking the seconds and minutes of the clock. Among other things, it is also a cool way to learn the numbers and practice basic calculations.
#6 Talk about oral hygiene
After explaining for like eternity how unpleasant it is to get a toothache, tooth decay, or yellow teeth without much progress, I resorted to extreme measures. I showed M a YouTube video showing what happens to kids who don’t look after their teeth. She was so impressed that she had watched it at least 50 times so far. Moreover, anytime I tell her that if she doesn’t brush her teeth, she may get tooth decay, she refers to the video herself and says, “like the girl from the clip, right mom,” and starts brushing her teeth with unprecedented enthusiasm.
#7 Do it in the bath
M has super fun in the tub with half a ton of toys and lots of foam and bubbles. Her happy mood makes brushing her teeth much easier. And as a good mother, I always take advantage of the situation 🙂
I am happy that all these tricks and efforts find their continuation in both the Mia’s school and at the dentist’s. It may sound strange to you, but Scotland encourages dental appointments for kids shortly after the first tooth breaks though. The idea is for the kids to see what the dentist’s office looks like, to smell it … When they get about a year old, they might sit on the chair, touch the tools, see the lamp above the dentist’s chair … Generally, they build a routine and a sense of understanding what is happening there, so that when one day they have to use this type of service they will not be scared.
ORAL HYGIENE AT THE NURSERY AND SCHOOL
Every child attending nursery or being in P1 and P2 in Scotland receives daily support in brushing their teeth after lunch. This includes getting a free toothbrush and toothpaste. The nursery / school staff help the children brush their teeth and discuss with them why it is so important.
All this is provided by Childsmile, a non-governmental organization sponsored by the Scottish Government that focuses on improving the oral health of children in Scotland. Its main objective is to reduce inequalities in oral health and to provide access to dental services for every child in the country.
In some nurseries, representatives of Childsmile meet parents talking about oral care and health and provide consent forms for applying fluoride varnish (which protects tooth decay). The varnish can be applied by staff at the nursery / school or at the dentist’s. M usually gets it during a checkup at her dentist. It is available in a variety of flavors – fruit, cookies, etc. and is applied by rubbing it on the teeth of the child. I would say this is one of M’s favorite things at the dentist’s.
ORAL HYGIENE AT THE DENTIST’S
As I mentioned earlier, appointments with the dentist start from an early age in order to build a routine. These “examinations” are made in a way that brings peace and fun for the child. Dentists always have different surprises for the children upon leaving the practice – stickers with cartoon characters, small plush toys, colored crayons, etc.
In the midst of the fun, the dentist evaluates the oral health of the child, gives dental care guidancesuch as “spit out the toothpaste, DO NOT to rinse” and apply the fluoride varnish I mentioned earlier. The check-ups are carried out every 6 months and the parents receive an SMS or a letter reminding them of an upcoming date and time.
Thanks to these synchronized efforts, the number of children in Scotland, with no apparent signs of tooth decay, has reached record highs (BBC, 2019).