Dental Boot Camp: Brushing Up on Kids’ Oral Hygiene

Dental Boot Camp: Brushing Up on Kids’ Oral Hygiene July 8, 2014
On her first trip to the dentist…

I had the privilege of hauling my crew of 5 into the dentist for our bi-annual check-up yesterday. You might have heard us as we paraded down the hallway and into the already-packed waiting area. I could hear the minds of the people there buzzing with questions and comments, but I chose to keep my head held high and delighted in the energy of my wonderful crew. They played nicely in the corner toy area as we waited. A few minutes later, four hygienists showed up at the door and in went my four oldest children. We all smiled and I breathed a little sigh of relief, knowing they were in good hands for the time being.  Little did I know, I was sending my kids into a war zone.

A short while later, the youngest (4) emerged with her smiling hygienist–teeth and smile perfection as we expected. She’s lucky right now to have parents who help and teeth small enough they don’t touch. Check! Following was my 5yo son, still doing a good job brushing and with occasional help from mom and dad. Whew! Check, check! Then we waited…

My #2 (7) came out a little while later, a grim look on his face and that of the hygienist. The news wasn’t good–a cavity and lots of plaque build-up. Yikes! Then came my oldest (9) with the same story of poor brushing and less-than-stellar oral hygiene. The doc tried to reassure me that their age and metabolism make them more susceptible to build-up, but all I was hearing was FAILURE. On my part, on my parenting, on my kids and their responsibility. I wanted to hide in embarrassment–I was that mother of many who had negligently let a ball drop. I fear for these moments.

But then I stopped; stopped feeling sorry for myself in the moment; stopped letting Satan in. I put my big girl pants on right then and there and realized the dentist had afforded me a wonderful teaching opportunity. I had to recognize that I would much rather have this scenario transpire while my older kids still have a good amount of baby teeth still left to lose. Better to have them scared into good habits now, than suffer the consequences when they have adult teeth and fewer options. I asked a few questions and also made sure the dentist had reprimanded my kids about good brushing. Better to have the doc give them a stern talking-to to drive home the point!

A little while later, the kids and I had a good talk about how the boys can do a better job of taking care of their teeth. We talked about making sure they brush long enough and with the right technique. I am planning to go through a teeth tutorial to show them what good brushing looks like (a la Mary Alice and her Training Tuesdays from way back). I have also found two YouTube videos that I like here and here that will help with instruction. The current brushing school of thought is for kids to make small circles with the brush on every surface of every tooth and on the gums (different from the vertical gum to the bottom of the tooth technique I was taught a few years ago). Dentists also recommend children under 7 floss 2 times/week and children and 7 and older should floss every day (oops!) That’s in addition to the 2 min/2 times a day brushing.

A few years back my sister gave us a teeth and hand-washing timer like this one . It is a nifty little gadget that sticks onto the mirror in the bathroom and flashes for 2 minutes for teeth brushing and 20 seconds for hand-washing, depending on the button you hit. It has needed new batteries for awhile and lo and behold, we have a good reason to change them! Among other technology, I am curious about implementing sonic with kids’ toothbrushing like this . Perhaps these brushes could help my crew improve their efficacy. The only drawback I see is keeping up with brush heads (among 5 kids, especially) and the potential cost of having enough of these so that we are conscious of time. Our bathroom normally has kids lined up 3 across, which would not be possible with only one of these gadgets. Still, it might be an expense worth considering!

We’ve got six months to get it right. Come January, our family will report back to the dentist and hear the latest verdict. Hopefully it will assure us we’re on the right path toward future oral health and wellness. Smile on!


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Argh, this post makes me feel like I need to step up our dental hygiene routine. Our oldest has had one cavity, and she was horrified by the experience. I think it motivated her to have a better routine for a few months, but then back to the same bad habits….

  • Katrina

    I’ve tried flossing with my kids, but it’s difficult to get the angle right unless they are lying on the ground, and they aren’t quite coordinated enough to do it themselves (at least the younger ones aren’t)! Tooth brushing at the end of the day can be so difficult, because everyone is tired and cranky and I’m ready for them to be in bed. However, I always regret it if I haven’t been helping them brush when the time comes for dental exams!

  • Karen

    We have had a similar experience too. This summer I have cut back to focus on basics that have fallen by the wayside with our crazy life. I too beat myself up about this issue. However, I remember every family is different and has a different life. Some kids are just easier to train on self care too. My oldest is highly functioning on the spectrum, and one place it shows is self care. It seriously took a year to teach to put her socks on when she was little. This series of training her to do all sorts of basic things has used up all my practice for this sort of training with the others and leaves me feeling like a failure- in other words, zaps my motivation. That has got to stop. I am going to focus on this one thing for the rest of the summer, and set reasonable goals for the 1st child. It will be harder without that 1st leading the rest, but it is possible. One tip that helps our bathroom backup in the morning is our tooth brushes are kept in a kitchen drawer. Glad to see this post! If you do get those brushes, please write a review 🙂 You should see if the company would send you one to try and blog about.

  • elenaafelskie

    If there is anything that has changed our oral health stories it is dental floss picks. I have six kids under twelve and flossing was impossible. The dental hygienist would place her hand on my thigh, look somberly into my eyes and say, “let’s talk about flossing…” Then, one hygienist finally suggested the picks and now all the older kids floss daily and our last appt was completely cavity free. My oldest son even brings one to school with him and flosses during class. (His twin sister told me this and there is now a no-flossing in public rule!). Believe me, these floss picks have revolutionized our oral hygiene. I buy the Aim brand at the dollar store, 75 picks for about 2 bucks.