Dr. Chris Forte, DDS
A Great Dentist

Creating Healthy Routines

The kids are heading back to school, which means that it’s time for early mornings and homework once again.

Routines are a great way to keep everyone on track. Laying out clothes and backpacks in the morning and establishing a regular time and place to do homework help to prevent arguments and hassles. When something is a regular part of the schedule, it’s a lot harder to create an argument about it.

The same is true for dental care.

Brushing and flossing should be a routine part of every day. We know that in many of our families, arguments can erupt over brushing teeth. Sometimes this is because kids want to exert their developing control, sometimes brushing teeth signifies a change that they aren’t ready for (heading to school or going to bed), and sometimes it’s actually a physical issue (they don’t like the feeling of the bristles on their gums).

Dr. Forte can help you create a home-care routine to make it easier for your kids to take care of their teeth and gums between check-ups.

  1. Make it part of the schedule.

Many parents trust a schedule to keep everyone on track in the morning and before bed. In fact, if you’ve been having arguments about getting ready and aren’t using a schedule, we recommend you try one out!

The most basic schedules can be a list on paper or a white board with basic items to check off such as showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, and brushing teeth. Some parents like to fancy it up a bit, so go ahead and get creative! Check out Pinterest for some fun schedule ideas.

If your child is resistant at first, you might want to offer small rewards (like stickers) for completing items on the schedule without whining or arguing. Soon, your kids won’t even have to think about it.

  1. Make brushing and flossing fun.

If your kid doesn’t like to brush because it’s boring, well… that’s not exactly unusual! Kids have short attention spans, and it can be hard to keep them brushing for the recommended amount of time.

Fortunately, we live in an age of technology with solutions to these kinds of problems. For instance, you can download free apps for your smartphone that will play music or track time in other ways to make brushing more interesting. Some toothbrushes even come with a musical timer on them that will help your kids brush for the right amount of time.

Depending on how old your kids are, they may still need supervision while brushing (and even if they are older, it doesn’t hurt to check in on them periodically to make sure they are brushing properly). Make brushing a family affair. Let your kids try to brush your teeth (talk about turning the tables!), pretend to be animals in a zoo getting their teeth scrubbed by their trainers, and take turns brushing in 30-second intervals. Mixing it up helps to keep it interesting, and kids love to see their parents being silly!

  1. Investigate resistance to brushing and flossing.

Sometimes kids don’t want to brush their teeth because it feels uncomfortable. If this is the case, no amount of coaxing from you is going to help. Some kids have a condition called sensory processing disorder, which causes sensations that most people don’t even notice (like a tag on our shirt or a toothbrush on our gums) to be highly uncomfortable and irritating.

If you suspect that your child isn’t brushing or flossing because the feeling is bothering them, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician and ask for a referral to an occupation therapist. An OT can perform an evaluation to see if your child is having challenges with sensory processing and will create a treatment plan.