The best approaches and incentives to get your child to brush their teeth

If skipping toothbrushing or dentist visits is a casual thing for adults, then how can we teach our children to be diligent in oral care? 

We asked a paediatric dentist and PhD candidate in Bucharest, Silvia Per, to share with us which approaches work well on children and which can actually cause a problem.

Don’t pay for toothbrushing or promise gifts for a dentist visit

“The worst incentive I’ve seen in my career was this: parents based their child’s pocket money on how many times he brushed his teeth, which is basically paying their child for brushing, ” says Silvia.

“This way the child firmly learns that toothbrushing is just a favour to someone else, not something that will make their own health better. I don’t recommend such an approach to anyone: not children, not adults.”

Introduce games and quests into your kid’s toothbrushing routine

“Tactics like games, challenges and ‘let’s do what parents do’ – these work for children who are very small, usually before the age of 3.

Children at this age don’t yet have the capacity to adjust their actions for long-term consequences. So yes, before roughly age 3 we need these short-term tactics to establish routines and rituals.”

Teach your kids that brushing is not a favour to adults, it’s for their own good

The opposite of bribing a child with gifts and other external motivators is to tell them more about what is happening in their mouth when they brush and don’t brush their teeth. Make it fun through games and stories.

Silvia Per shared her insight: “I tell children a story about bacteria that accumulate on their teeth when they don’t brush, or a story about a tooth that wants to be clean the same way we clean our fingers, toes and face.”