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You, and maybe even your kids, know a well-tended mouth is a must for fresh breath and a bright smile.
But sadly, just knowing this isn’t always enough to get your family into the brushing-and-flossing habit.
The fear of cavities won’t do the trick, either – because cavities take time to show up, your kids won’t fully understand what caused them. So what does it take to get kids motivated?
According to the experts, two of the most important ingredients are parental involvement and – our personal favourite – fun!
There’s no substitute for brushing and flossing, but these foods can help keep mouths healthy.
Raw, hard fruits and vegies
Eating a crisp apple of a crunchy carrot or celery stick after a meal makes your mouth water, which helps clear away debris that can cause decay and gum disease.
Cheese balances your mouth’s pH level, making it less hospitable to decay-causing bacteria, and produces saliva to wash away food particles. The calcium in cheese also helps build enamel on teeth that haven’t grown in yet.
Chewing it after a meal increases saliva flow and works to neutralise tooth-decaying acids in plaque.
But, avoid sugary foods and drinks
Sugary food and drinks are one of the main causes of tooth decay. Acid is produced when the bacteria in your mouth break down the sugar. The acid dissolves the tooth surface, which is the first stage of tooth decay.
Make brushing teeth fun, not a chore.
The family that brushes together, has clean teeth together
Many families find that togetherness promotes better dental hygiene: for example, the White family crowds into their small bathroom, with the kids passing out the brushes – then Dad does a thorough ‘tooth check’ before anyone leaves.
“The kids emulate our brushing techniques,” says mum Jennifer. “And because we have to be role models, my husband and I end up doing a better job ourselves!”
Make it fun
Leave it to kids to find humor in pretty much anything, including, as it happens, brushing and flossing.
When Jennie Morehead’s kids were younger, she created the Gorilla Game, which they still play. “We pretend there are ‘tooth gorillas’ hiding between their teeth that can be removed only by proper dental care.”
Another mum gave her kids’ teeth silly names, checking them after they were brushed. “Did you remember Jelly Bean? And I think I can see something sitting between Homer and Pearl.”
Brush to the beat
To make sure their kids are brushing for long enough (ideally, for at least two minutes), many parents use music in one form or another.
It’s a good idea to have a specific tooth-brushing song (you can make one up if you like), or just tune into your favourite radio station for a song.
Kari, a mum of two, says, “It makes the time go faster, and they’re usually humming by the end.”
A sticker chart is tops
When they were little, the Jenkins kids had a sticker added to their prize chart every time they brushed all they way through two rounds of Raffi’s Brush your Teeth song.
When the chart had enough stickers, they went and did something special together as a family.
And your teeth brushing time starts now!
Leading Australian oral health care company, Caredent is encouraging children to take the two minute teeth test every day, twice a day by brushing their upper teeth for one minute and their lower teeth for the same time.
The new Caredent Cosmic toothbrush comes with a unique two-minute LED flashing light timer, easy grip handle, soft compact head and suction cup for hygiene. Available in purple and blue for $5 (RRP).