How to Get Your Kids to Brush and Floss

It's a struggle familiar to many parents: getting children to brush their teeth—and floss them, too. Here's how to get them going.

By Stuart Foxman for

When it comes to dental care, many children give the task the brush off. They just don’t brush and floss often enough, properly or willingly, say dentists. And parents can use improper tactics to get results. “Some get their kids to brush by bribing them with candy—completely counter-productive,” says Dr. Sarah Hulland, a Calgary pediatric dentist. Consider these strategies instead.

Start Early

Brushing and flossing should be a habit, not something you have to force kids to do. So start the habit early. Even before children have teeth, parents should wipe their gums, using a clean face cloth, gauze or a finger-worn brush. It lets children know that cleaning their mouth is part of a routine.

Show Them the Way

Before school age (even after for many kids) children likely aren’t brushing or flossing well, says Hulland: “They lack the consciousness and coordination to do a good job.” They’ll brush along the biting surface, for instance, but not where the teeth meet the gum. At this stage, parents need to brush their child’s teeth or do it with them (i.e. your hand over the child’s). The same with flossing, which should start as soon as there’s no space between the baby teeth. Another way to motivate them: Let children watch you brush and floss too (you can even do it at the same time) to remind them of its importance and the proper technique.

Set Goals

Use a chart to track your child’s brushing and flossing, and reward them for a good week or month. It’s a visible reminder of an expected task, provides a positive incentive and gives children a sense of responsibility, says Dr. Gary Elman, a Toronto dentist.

Make it Fun

Some accessories—toothbrushes with a favourite cartoon character or that play songs, power brushes, floss wands, fun-flavoured toothpastes—can make caring for teeth less of a chore. Just ensure that the brush head is small enough to reach the corners of your child’s mouth.

Stay on Top

As kids get older and wash up by themselves, don’t just assume that they’ve developed good brushing and flossing habits. Check if their toothbrush is wet or if the toothpaste and floss are running lower. If not, try incentives again. Or if you really want to see results, jokes Dr. Hulland, offer to brush and floss their teeth just like when they were a toddler—that will get any teen moving quickly.

Published in : Health & Well-Being » Family
Find more about: toothbrush | oral | children | childhood
No votes yet

Recent Features

  • 7 Ways to Make Errands Less Stressful>>

    Like death and taxes, there’s no escaping having to run errands. Since they can eat up time better spent relaxing or exercising, here are a few ways to make the process quicker, less stressful and more enjoyable.>>

  • 5 Weird Questions Answered>>

    We all have strange questions we just need the answer to. Here are the answer to 5 things you've probably always wondered about.>>

  • 5 Things The New Royal Baby Will Inherit>>

    Now that Prince William and Kate Middleton have welcomed their child into the world, we take a look at what the Royal Family's newest addition will inherit.>>

  • 3 Pregnancy Tips for First-Time Moms>>

    Three experts offer tips to first-time mothers for a happy and healthy pregnancy.>>

  • 6 Clever Car Games for Kids>>

    Being trapped in a car with children on a long drive can sometimes seem like a form of torture. One great way to prevent bad moods and complaining? Playing games. We’ve come up with six fun car games to make the kilometres roll by faster.>>

  • 10 Tips For A Healthy and Active Family>>

    Having trouble getting the kids outside despite the nice weather? Sometimes the video games can be first choice, but here are 10 tips to get the whole family outside and active.>>

  • 8 Reasons Babies Are Smarter Than You Think>>

    Chubby, cherubic and drooly, sure, but babies are much more than lovable lumps. Discover how fascinating new studies are revealing the true genius in those ga-gas and goo-goos.>>

  • 8 Ways to Save On Back To School>>

    Don't stress about school before it's even started. Follow these easy school supply budgeting tips for peace of mind and A+ savings.>>

  • How to Start an Online Mom's Support Group>>

    Today’s moms are reaching out to create their own social circles, and online groups dedicated to moms and their interests are popping up all over the web. Meet two trail-blazing moms and see how their online groups have helped women navigate the challenges of motherhood.>>

  • The Best Canadian Cities to Raise a Family>>

    When it comes to parenting, not all Canadian cities are created equal. We looked at our provincial capitals and cities with a population of over 80,000 to find you the most family-friendly communities in the country.>>

  • How Maternity Leave Is Failing Canadian Women>>

    Increasing the birthrate. Letting mothers take care of their young children without damaging their careers. Extended maternity leave was enacted for all the right reasons. So what went wrong?>>

  • Canada's Top 10 Mommy Bloggers>>

    For most of the country’s nearly 4,000 mommy blogs, the payback is simple: being heard. Learn, laugh, and cry with ten of the loudest moms in Canada. (And one daddy blogger, too.)>>

  • The Sport of Motherhood>>

    No matter how far they go in life, children will always depend on their parents. A mother explains why come crunch time, she's still who her son turns to.>>

  • Why Letting Your Kids Go Can Be So Hard>>

    At every stage, motherhood requires you to renegotiate the boundaries you share with your children. A mother shares why letting go of her sons as they grow up is so bittersweet.>>

  • 6 Surprising Ways Pregnancy Changes a Mother's Brain>>

    Pregnancy doesn't just change a woman's body, it also rewires her brain. Discover the mind-bending ideas and emotions a new baby can bring.>>

Your Comments