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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