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How to encourage children to keep their teeth clean

Dental hygiene is very important and teaching this to your children early on is vital for two main reasons. The first is that children must get into a routine of cleaning their teeth before they become adults, when irregular teeth cleaning and bad dental hygiene can cause problems for permanent teeth. The other important thing is that, although milk teeth are replaced by adult teeth, for this to be as pain free as possible and for the growing teeth to be positioned correctly, good dental hygiene must be maintained throughout childhood.

However, the importance is not obvious to young children and it can be difficult to get them to understand it. Due to the fact that teeth cleaning is  seen as a chore, many children do not see the advantages and will make every effort to avoid doing it.

All children are different, so some methods will work for some children and not others but here are a few suggestions:

Start your children early and set a good example.

Children who are used to having their teeth cleaned from an early age are less likely to see it as a chore and more of a day-to-day activity. Remember that you are your child’s role model. If you are proactive about dental hygiene then your children are more likely to follow your example. It could be made into a family activity, where everyone does it at the same time- this will reduce the feeling that the child is alone in this and they see you doing the same thing.

Allow your child to pick their own teeth cleaning equipment.

A fun toothbrush and flavoured tooth paste will make them more likely to enjoy the experience. It also gives the child a sense of control, as if this is a chosen activity. For example, brushes with particular characters encourage children to use this equipment.

Get your children to brush their teeth to music

Have a list of various songs or tunes that your child likes to listen to and play or sing them while they clean their teeth. Use this a method for brushing for the right time or as an entertainment activity whereby they brush in time to the music. 

Use a timer

Alternatively to the music, a timer can be useful. These ensure that children clean their teeth for long enough as well as being used for entertainment. Many toothbrushes now contain a timer system in which they light up or play a tune and when they stop it is time for your child to stop cleaning their teeth.

Make a rewards chart

Having a small chart with stickers that add up to a reward can be useful. They can be given a sticker every time they clean their teeth without complaining and after a certain number, they get a small reward. This gets them into a routine of teeth cleaning and teaches them that it does not have to be a big deal.

Explain to them the issues with not brushing their teeth

Children will respond to you if you give them the facts. Therefore simply explaining why good dental hygiene is so important can make a big difference. Using children’s stories about teeth cleaning to highlight the importance may also help to illustrate what you are saying.


Different things work for different people, so if none of these things work for your child then try asking them what would make it more enjoyable.