Many children don't fully grasp the importance of brushing their teeth and view it as just one more chore they have to do each day. To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, your child needs to brush twice a day, but it can be tricky to teach your child how to also clean her teeth the correct way. Transform the usual mundane routine of teeth brushing into an entertaining experience and your child is more likely to take her oral health more seriously.
If your child hasn't seen proper teeth brushing in action, she's not as likely to understand what she needs to be doing. Take your child into the bathroom, squeeze toothpaste on your own toothbrush and demonstrate the proper technique for cleaning each tooth. Show your child how to brush in a back-and-forth motion and how to reach the back molars by turning the toothbrush to a 45-degree angle. Demonstrate how to spit out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it. Teach your child how to rinse her toothbrush and give her teeth another good scrub before she's done.
Race Against the Clock
Challenge your child to see whether he can keep brushing his teeth for two minutes, the amount of time recommended by the American Dental Association. Set a timer for two minutes and see whether your child can brush until it dings. If he stops before the timer dings, remind him to keep going. Once his two minutes are up, give him a plaque dye tablet, which he chews up. These are available at dentist offices and pharmacies, according to Sherrie West and Amy Cox, authors of "Literacy Play: Over 300 Dramatic Play Activities That Teach Pre-Reading Skills." As he chews, the color in the dye tablet will stick to the spots he might have missed while brushing. If the tablet reveals missed spots, set the timer for one or two more minutes and challenge him to get rid of all the color before it dings. Make it more of a game by cheering him on and encouraging him as he brushes.
Do a science experiment with your child to show her what can happen if she doesn't brush her teeth or if she doesn't brush them properly. Fill a plastic cup with toothpaste and press an egg into the toothpaste until about half of it is immersed. Draw an X on the side that's not in toothpaste and then brush over the mark with clear nail polish. Leave the egg in the toothpaste four full days. When time is up, gently wipe the toothpaste off the egg and immerse it in a cup of white vinegar. Leave the egg alone for seven to 13 hours, or until the shell on the untreated side of the egg begins to get soft. Remove the egg and show your child what can happen to her teeth if she doesn't brush properly. The vinegar acts like acid and plaque to soften the teeth, which can cause cavities and dental decay. You might also do the same experiment, but immerse the egg in soda instead of vinegar to see what the acid it contains can do to your child's teeth if she doesn't brush properly.
Practice on a Model
Cut the lid off of an egg carton. Use the bottom of the carton, where the eggs rested, to mimic the appearance of teeth. Flip it upside down and give your child a toothbrush. Let her practice brushing all the surfaces of the "teeth" to give her an idea of how she should brush her own teeth. Draw a picture of a smiling mouth with teeth on a piece of white paper. Give your child an old toothbrush and some washable paint. Ask her to "brush" the teeth by pretending that the paint is the toothpaste. Remind her to get all of the areas of each tooth.