11 simple ways to make dental hygiene fun for kids!

Maintaining dental hygiene and visiting the dentist regularly are extremely important to begin from a young age!

Maintaining good dental hygiene from an early age is extremely important. Dentist and fun are not very often used in the same sentence, but they could be. Especially for kids! I usually say happy mommy, happy kids, but this one definitely works both ways.

The twins just turned three, so it was time for their dentist’s appointments again. The previous time was when they were one, and the next time will be at the age of five. In Finland, a minimum of three dental appointments before school age are arranged by the county free of charge. (Technically it isn’t free, as it comes from the tax payers’ pockets, but I personally feel it’s money well allocated.)

I’ve always had good teeth, hence I never managed to develop a genuine fear of dentists. Or well, to be fair, having my wisdom tooth pulled was not exactly one of my highlights.. In my head, it was the most horrendous thing one could ever experience. And we’re talking a simple “plop” and it was out – I was back at home within 30 minutes from originally leaving the house. But in all reality, I’ve never experienced a good old-fashioned torture at the dentists. This doesn’t mean though that I would be particularly fond of dentists.

Fear of dentists

Just because I’m not genuinely afraid of the dentist, doesn’t mean that it’s not a legit fear for many. From what I’ve heard, a root canal is not a very pleasant experience. Braces can be painful. Getting drilled on several occasions.. Well you probably know better than I do.. I do though understand, the fear is real. In all honesty, as said, I cannot say that I like going to the dentist, or enjoy it for that matter. Just as I’m not fond of visiting any other doctor.

But. That fear or dislike is not to be transferred to your kids. No matter what. Visiting a dentist regularly is a must for good teeth, just as brushing twice a day. And the last thing you want to do is have your kids fear the visits or dislike maintaining dental hygiene.

Making dentist’s visits and dental hygiene fun

I’m all about simplifying my life and avoiding unnecessary stress. With kids in tow, it’s even more important. Our visits to the dentist’s office have always been a great success. We’ve never experienced tears or melt downs, instead, it’s something that all my kids have been excited about. They actually look forward to visiting the dentist. So what’s my magic trick? First of all, it’s not magic. Far from it. It’s simple. We make the visits fun and exciting!

Here are some tricks I use to make dentist’s visits with my kids a success:

  • This one is pretty obvious, but brush your child’s teeth twice a day. We started using an electric toothbrush (one with low rotation and suitable for kids) very early on. A lot of the brushes state “not for under 3 year olds”, but after consultation with my dentist, I chose to use an electric brush from approximately 18 months of age. Clean teeth, less cavities, less “bad” experiences. I always brush my kids’ teeth first before letting them finish the job.
  • Play dentist at home! I like to have the kids lay down when I brush their teeth in the evenings, just as if we were at a dentist. I get a better view and manage to clean better plus they get used to what it’s like at a dentist.
  • Talk about the visit well in advance, more and more as the visit draws near. Always talk about it in an excited voice – as if you were going to the amusement park! (I know it sounds silly, but the excitement is contagious!) Make them think about it: what color the dentist’s gloves might be, what color the chair will be, if she or he will give them sunglasses to wear, etc. Explain how cool the elevating chair is. Wonder together how many teeth they have.
  • Have a reward. Our dentist always gives the kids a toothbrush and a small toy figure or “surprise egg” piece of jewelry, etc. In addition though, I like to give them something special too. We’ll go “shopping” together after the visit, and I let them choose something small and inexpensive, like stickers or a new coloring book. (Again stating the obvious, but no, candy is not an appropriate reward in this case..)

Making brushing teeth a little easier:

  • Begin early. Give your baby a toothbrush to play with and chew on as soon as they start teething. Get them used to it as early as possible, as this will really help in the long run. Dental hygiene should be focused on already while expecting a baby!
  • Let your kids choose their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store. As we use electric brushes, the choices are a little more limited compared to traditional tooth brushes, but there’s still several to choose from. Allowing them to pick and choose, involving them, makes it a little more important for them too.
  • If you’re not the kind of parent who is allergic to screen time, download a kid’s app for brushing teeth. We’ve liked using the Disney Magic Timer, which is a free app and even though it’s meant to be used with Oral B products, it actually also works without too.
  • Sing a song together while brushing their teeth. My husband usually sings the alphabet song and I have a self-made up song about cavity monsters.. We’ve also used YouTube, with songs like Sesame Street’s “Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me: Brushy Brush PSA”. Whatever makes your child happy!
  • Use rewards like stickers if your child is reluctant.
  • Incorporate brushing teeth into your daily routine, both in the morning and in the evening.
  • Use xylitol products! In Finland, it’s recommended to use xylitol pastilles or chewing gum after every meal and after brushing your teeth.

It won’t always be easy, but it’s worth the effort

Teaching good dental hygiene to kids, like anything else when it comes to parenting, is not always simple and straight forward. Practice makes perfect and as with many other things, don’t stress over it too much. Set an example, work on it together and find ways that work for you an your family. Toddlers and kids go through several phases of anarchy and testing their parents, so I guarantee you, brushing kids’ teeth will not always work as a charm. For the long run though, this is an area that you do want to put an effort into!

Do you have some great tips or tricks up your sleeve that could further help encourage children to love visiting the dentist and taking good care of their teeth?

Easy ways to maintain and teach dental hygiene for kids!

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17 thoughts on “11 simple ways to make dental hygiene fun for kids!

    1. I’m glad you like them! When we first started “really” brushing my firstborn’s teeth, we would do it right after her evening oatmeal, so that she was still sitting in her high chair. That way I had two hands free.. I placed a mirror in front of her on the table so she could see what I was doing, which she loved! I might actually have to go back and update the post about the mirror, completely forgot about it!

  1. This is really helpful, my toddler is really resistant to brushing her teeth right now. I’m trying not to stress because I know it’s a phase but these tips might make it fun again.

  2. Great advice. I’ve been wanting to get my boy an electric toothbrush but have been hesitant because of the 3+ age tag! Think I’ll bit the bullet and just go for it!

    1. Personally I think the 3+ age tag is more of a legal protection for the manufacturers, as with a lot of products. I’ve yet to come across a dentist that would recommend a manual brush over an electric one. It’s so much easier and more efficient for really cleaning teeth! I laughed out loud when I read that “a strong argument against using an electric brush is that it will disrupt the development of the motor skills required to use a manual brush”.. I choose clean healthy teeth over learning to use a manual brush any day! 😀

      1. I’d like to add a bit here. Our hygienist said that kids aren’t capable of brushing their own teeth until the age of 8-9, since that’s the earliest that they develop the fine motor skills needed to do a good job of it. It’s apparently the same motor skills that go into learning cursive! So electric brush or not, they’re not ready to learn it until that age. Of course, it’s a super idea to let them ”finish it off”, like you said. Practise, and getting the routine set early is great!

        1. Thanks, yes!! We’ve received the exact same advice, that parents should brush their kids’ teeth until at least 3rd grade, but preferably even longer! Didn’t realize the connection, but writing in cursive and brushing teeth is a great comparison.

    1. Thanks! I found that as soon as my kids were old enough to “understand” that they could choose their own it became a real game changer. It wasn’t just something mom had picked out for them, instead something that they themselves had been involved in, which felt like a much bigger deal for them.

  3. That is wonderful that Finland pays for visits before 3. That’s a great way to encourage parents to bring their children. I myself am not a fan of the dentist, having braces, wisdom teeth pulled and root canals. I had to make sure I didn’t transfer that fear. As you mentioned I also spoke about the dentist in a happy tone and gave a reward. I told my kids that the dentist wants to count their teeth, so when they feel a tap on their tooth it’s the dentist counting it. That helped as well. Excellent advice here. Rachel from https://www.explorekidtalk.com/

    1. Actually, dental care in Finland is free for all under 18! As I was mainly focusing on young kids, i.e. under the school age, I just brought up that we are sent home three invitations to dental check up appointments, usually at the age of 1, 3 and 5. I should’ve of course mentioned that once they’re in school, they still visit the dentist regularly free of charge! The appointments are usually then during school time and bigger kids go to them alone. In all reality though it’s a fantastic system.

  4. This was a great article until you used the term allergic to screen time as a negative connotation. According to the AAP children should not have screen time until 2, and then very limited. Please don’t try to put down parents who are doing the best and recommend thing because you choose not to. It’s your choice but does not make the best medical choice an allergy.

    1. Thank you, I appreciate the feedback. I used the word allergic in italics for a reason – by no means did I intend it as a negative implication for anyone who chooses to avoid screen time in any form for young children, my apologies if you felt it that way. Using an iPad or smartphone 2 x 2-3min a day to assist in getting a reluctant toddler to get excited about brushing their teeth is in my opinion not a bad form of screen time, but I’m fully aware not everyone agrees. I think we all need to find ways that work best for our own families. Using electronics has both its benefits and downsides, which we all need to overweigh as parents. Playing a game on the iPad was helpful for further encouraging my kids’ interest in maintaining good dental hygiene, which for me is important. There is no judgement on my behalf if that’s not an option you want to engage in, I hope you find other means of encouragement which are more suitable for your family!

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