Three Bad Tooth Brushing Habits That Are Common Among Children – And How To Fix Them

For good dental health, the American Dental Association recommends brushing teeth at least twice per day. In spite of knowing this fact, many adults still struggle with proper oral hygiene. If you want your kids to be one of the adults for whom proper oral hygiene habits are second nature, the key is working with him or her to develop those habits early on in life. If your child learns to brush and floss properly when he or she is young, you can count on those habits, and his or her teeth, lasting a lifetime.

Unfortunately, a lot of children have poor tooth brushing hygiene habits. In spite of wanting what is best for their children, parents aren't always so sure how to correct these habits. Follow this guide to steer your child in the right direction.

Bad Habit #1: Brushing too quickly.

Many children spend far less than the recommended 2-3 minutes brushing their teeth. Start observing your child brushing from time to time, and evaluate whether he or she is spending long enough. If you discover that quick brushing sessions are a common occurrence in your home, take action sooner rather than later, so your child's teeth don't suffer the consequences of inadequate brushing.

How to fix it: Talk to your child about the importance of spending a full 2 minutes each time he or she brushes teeth, and put a timer in the bathroom. Have your child set it for 2 minutes and brush until it rings. Also, set a good example by using the timer when brushing your own teeth.

Bad Habit #2: Missing important spots while brushing.

Even if your child does spend a full 2 minutes brushing, he or she may be missing important spots. If the same spots are missed over and over again, cavities may form in these areas. It's hard to tell, even by watching, whether your child is reaching all of the important areas when brushing. A good way to know is to ask your oral hygienist during your child's cleaning appointment whether there are areas your child should focus on more.

How to fix it: If your oral hygienist or children's dentist indicates your child is missing spots while brushing, make up a song to help your child remember to brush these places. For example, if your child is missing the back molars, your song could be "First we brush the insides, then we brush the outsides, then we brush the molars, 'cause they're important, too."

Another solution is to have your child chew a special red tablet that stains the areas where teeth are covered with plaque. There are several brands of these on the market, and a pediatric dentist can likely provide one for you. Visually seeing the areas where his or her teeth are still covered in plaque will help your child remember to brush these areas.

Bad Habit #3: Lying about tooth brushing.

Some children hate taking the time to brush their teeth, so they lie to their parents and say they have brushed when they really have not. Even if you think your child has been brushing, you should check from time to time to make sure he or she is not lying. Here are a few signs that indicate your child's teeth have not, in fact, been brushed:

  • Your child says he or she has brushed teeth, but the toothbrush is still dry.
  • The amount of toothpaste left in the tube has not decreased recently.
  • The bristles on your child's toothbrush never start looking worn out.
  • Your child's breath always seems smelly.

How to fix it: There are many ways to approach this problem, and which works best will depend on your child's age and personality. For young children, start supervising during tooth brushing time to ensure your child is, in fact, brushing. This also gives you the opportunity to ensure he or she is doing a thorough job. For older children, you can spot-check to make sure the toothbrush is wet after your child says he or she has brushed, and assign extra chores if you find your child has been lying.

Between getting dressed, eating breakfast, and packing book bags, it's common for oral hygiene to be overlooked in a child's morning routine. By being on the lookout for these common bad habits, however, you can ensure your child develops lifelong habits to keep his or her teeth cavity-free.