We think it’s safe to assume that all adults know they should brush their teeth at least twice a day: once in the morning and once before you go to bed at night. It’s easy for grown-ups to stick to the “two times a day” rule — but getting little ones to stay on top of their own oral health can be a bit more challenging.

As pediatric dentists in Scottsdale and Phoenix, we’re all about building a foundation for excellent oral health that children will carry with them throughout their lives. After all, good dental habits affect your health overall, not just your teeth, so it’s important to start off strong as early as possible.

At Children’s Dental Specialty, we know it can be a struggle to get your kids excited about brushing their teeth. But fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks to turn teeth brushing into a fun family activity your kiddos will look forward to. Here’s how.

Tip #1: Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth as Soon as They Come In

This might come as a surprise, but it’s a good idea to start brushing your baby’s teeth before they even come in. Starting before your baby’s very first tooth, you can begin to establish a healthy teeth brushing routine. When your baby’s smile is still all gums, use a damp washcloth to wipe baby’s gums after feedings to prevent bacterial growth. When a few teeth begin to poke through, we recommend using a damp washcloth, gauze pad, or finger brush to gently wipe your child’s teeth and tongue after meals and before bedtime. Once your child has a few more pearly whites, you can start to use a baby toothbrush and tiny, rice-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Tip #2: Educate Your Kids on Why Teeth Brushing Matters

Honestly, even parents struggle with this one sometimes and we totally get it. Why bother brushing baby teeth that are going to fall out anyway? Well, it’s less about the teeth at this point and more about the gums, bones and overall foundation of your child’s oral health. Gum disease is linked to many chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, heart disease, dementia and more) and can begin at a very young age. Baby teeth are also just as susceptible to cavities as adult teeth, which can be painful and expensive to fix. Even after the cavity is gone, it can still have lasting effects on your child’s teeth. So it’s critical to start taking care of your little ones’ teeth as early as possible. Helping them understand the reasons behind teeth brushing can go a long way, too.

Tip #3: Teach Children Proper Teeth Brushing Technique

Brushing your baby’s teeth is relatively easy. Since they don’t have much independence yet, they don’t really have a choice but to cooperate! Once your child reaches toddlerhood, though, that’s when things get really tricky … we mean, fun! You might have to get creative to keep your kiddos interested in brushing their teeth (we’ll get to that soon), but first, you need to show your kids proper tooth brushing technique.

One of the great things about kids is that they love to imitate mom and dad. If they see you brushing your teeth, they’ll want to try it too. Use this to your advantage when teaching kids to brush their teeth properly. Show them how you only use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, exaggerate your brushing movements and really get into those tough-to-reach places. Spit your toothpaste out to demonstrate that they should never swallow it. By showing your kids how you brush your teeth, they’ll begin to pick up on how to brush their own.

Tip #4: Turn Teeth Brushing into Family Game Time

Kids really don’t like doing chores, so if you make teeth brushing another dreaded task, that’s exactly what it will become. Instead, make teeth brushing an exciting time of the day (or evening) by using games or music to pass the time. Play your child’s favorite two-minute tune to encourage them to brush for the whole recommended time. Or create a game where your kids are the only one who can defeat the nasty “sugar bugs.” Set a timer and let them race to see who can get rid of the most sugar bugs. Turning teeth brushing into a fun event will help to get your kids excited about oral health.

Tip #5: Let Kiddos Choose Their Own Toothbrush and Toothpaste

No one likes being told what to do and kids are no different. That’s why it can help to give them an active role in their teeth brushing routine. Let them pick out their own toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character on it and a child-friendly toothpaste flavor they’ll actually want to use. Getting little ones involved in these simple parts of the process will make them much more engaged when it comes time to brush their teeth.

Tip #6: Find a Pediatric Dentist in Phoenix & Scottsdale that You Trust

Ideally, children should first see a pediatric dentist by age two for an oral health assessment. At Children’s Dental Specialty, we offer complimentary baby dental exams in Scottsdale and Phoenix to little ones from birth through 18 months to kick off your child’s oral health. We’ll take a quick peek at your kiddo’s gums and teeth, assess any potential issues, and tell you everything you need to know about caring for your child’s growing smile. Still have questions about brushing your kids’ teeth? Ready to book your child’s first or next appointment? Contact Children’s Dental Specialty today and we’ll be happy to help.