Are you getting the brush off?

5 fun ways to get kids to care for their teeth

Let’s face it: Kids are cute, but they’re not big on personal hygiene. In fact, if left to their own devices, most children would skip bath time for days on end. And without someone to cajole and wheedle, getting a kid to wield a toothbrush would be as rare as, well, hen’s teeth.

How, then, to encourage your little ones to brush often and thoroughly? Most experts recommend starting while they’re tiny, but it’s never too late to encourage good habits or break bad ones. With that in mind, here are some ideas for making tooth-brushing time a bit more appealing:

  1. Set a good example. Kids learn from watching. If they see you brushing your teeth and enjoying it, they'll be likely to emulate your behavior. This may mean altering your brushing schedule until after the kids are awake and before they go to bed.
  2. Make brushing tasty. There are many types of toothpaste for kids out there, and they come in a variety of flavors and colors. Choose a brand your children like. If the tube is emblazoned with one their favorite cartoon characters, you may have even better luck.
  3. Show them the evidence. Remember those plaque-disclosing tablets you chewed as a kid? The ones that left pink, tell-tale stains on the areas you missed with your brush? They still make those, and you can get them at your local Wal-Mart or at online sites such as
  4. Read all about it. Encourage  healthy habits by selecting a few good books about brushing. Try "Brush Your Teeth Please," a pop-up book that allows kids to brush the teeth of its characters, or "Ginger McFlea Will Not Clean Her Teeth," about a girl whose refusal to brush is driving her mother bonkers.
  5. Practice counting during tooth-brushing time. Tooth number one is clean … tooth number two is clean. It’s a fun way to practice two important skills.

Regular dental check-ups are important

According to the National Institutes of Health, tooth decay is the most chronic disease in children, despite the fact that it’s almost entirely preventable. More than 40 percent of kids ages 2 to 11 have had a cavity in a baby tooth, and two-thirds of 16- to 19-year-olds have had a cavity in a permanent tooth. Although the tooth-decay rate has decreased in the past 40 years, decay has increased in preschool-age children in recent years.1

Children should see a dentist twice per year, and you might be surprised by how early check-ups should begin: Most experts recommend a visit within six months after a baby’s first tooth comes in. Early visits are about getting a child comfortable in a dentist’s chair. The dentist will check for decay; examine the child’s bite; and look for potential gum, jaw or oral-tissue problems.2

To help pay for the visits, many parents see value in applying for voluntary dental insurance, which is also known as supplemental dental insurance. It’s a high-value proposition for several reasons: These policies fit most budgets, dental health is closely tied to overall health, and many companies are discontinuing employer-paid dental coverage. Depending upon the state and policy selected, benefits may include cleanings, filling cavities, checkups and more.

Wise parents are vigilant about encouraging kids to brush their teeth. Having the right insurance in place may encourage parents, in turn, to schedule all-important dental exams for their children.


1 National Institutes of Health, “Children’s Dental Health,” accessed Nov. 26, 2013 -
2 WebMD, “Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist,” accessed Nov. 26, 2013 -

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a solicitation.