How to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth

February is Children’s Dental Health Month, and we are brushing up on tips for healthy teeth, and examining the causes of halitosis, or bad breath.

What is halitosis and how can you avoid it?

Some bacteria in the mouth are odor-producing, which can lead to halitosis (bad breath.) If you don’t floss and brush regularly, these bacteria can build up. Mouthwash is a temporary fix, but if you do choose to use one, opt for an antiseptic one, which kills the germs that cause bad breath. A plaque-reducing mouth wash should have a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. For small children use an alcohol-free mouthwash. Your dentist can provide specific recommendations.

What is the cause of bad breath if you are brushing twice per day? There can be many reasons, but you may not be brushing long enough, says Dr. Richard Mungo, chair of pediatric dentistry at CHOC. Each brushing should last for two minutes, but the average person only brushes for about 45 seconds, Mungo says. Try setting a timer for the full amount of time or using one of the many Apps that are available on the internet to help children brush longer and have fun. Using electric toothbrushes are another way to ensure a proper brushing, he says. Electric brushes can be more efficient and many are programmed to stay on for the required two minutes, assuring a good brushing of all surfaces.

how to get kids to brush their teeth
Dr. Richard Mungo, chair of pediatric dentistry at CHOC

If bad breath persists despite proper brushings and flossing and regular trips to the pediatric dentist, your child may have post nasal drip or other sinus problems, contributing to the halitosis. If there are cavities present or inflamed gums, these difficulties must be attended to. Consult your pediatric dentist or pediatrician who can determine if something else is causing the bad breath.

How to get kids to brush their teeth:

It can be tricky to get kids to brush and floss regularly, but building healthy oral hygiene habits early in life is important. Dr. Mungo offers tips to getting little ones on board with brushing and flossing:

  • Play your child’s favorite song while they are brushing to get them used to brushing for the full two minutes.
  • Be a good example. If your children see you brushing and flossing regularly, they are more likely to model your behavior.
  • Let children choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste, from choices recommended by your dentist.
  • Create a positive attitude towards going to the dentist. Your child’s first visit should be at age one, or when the first tooth erupts into the mouth. That first early visit will introduce you to proper oral health care, emergency services that are available and proper dietary concerns for your children. Children can often pick up on parents’ anxiety, so be a good actor when present with the child, so they can be comfortable and confident that going to the dentist is fun.

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