Many of the patients we see at our Orem, Utah dental office are parents of small children. When I examine such families, I always make sure to impart the advice recommended by the ADA and my dental school pediatric classes, that is, brushing and flossing for at least two minutes, twice a day, seven days a week. It sounds simple enough, but if your family is anything like mine, the word “bedtime” carries with it just a slight feeling of dread and panic over the whole dental hygiene routine.
Here’s how it goes in my home (disclaimer: I am a terrible parent!): "Time to brush teeth and go to bed!" I announce to my two and five year-olds. Rather than running eagerly to the bathroom, they scatter like gazelles being chased by a hungry lion, thinking that only one of them can be caught if they go different directions. I always chase Allie, the five year-old, first because she is the slowest and easiest to catch. When I track her down, she changes her strategy; rather than fleeing, she goes limp like a sack of potatoes and I have to carry or drag her dead weight to the bathroom. When I finally get her to the sink, she changes the strategy again and becomes a defendant. She spends a few minutes (easily enough time to be done with the cleaning) arguing with me that her teeth are clean and free of "sugar bugs" and then I have to get tough. Usually I have to make some kind of threat against her My Little Pony toys or Princess Sophia cartoons to get her to cooperate. Reluctantly she puts water and toothpaste on her brush, places it in her mouth, and then gently agitates it aimlessly for approximately 7.5 seconds before removing it and calling the job done. I then take her toothbrush, re-apply the toothpaste and brush her teeth myself. As much as I'd love her to experience just one cavity in her life to motivate some change in hygiene habits, she's my little princess and my overprotective daddy love for her will not let me do this.
Then it's Zachary, the two year-old's turn. Zach isn't nearly the tactician or debater that Allie is, but he more than makes up for it with an impressive combination of strength, speed, and lack of safety instincts. After a great deal of chasing, thrashing, and crashing, Zach will finally be caught and subdued (an impressive feat in itself) and then I carry him to the bathroom while he squirms and seeks to grasp every corner, door frame, piece of furniture, and hand rail his little hands can find to brake his progress toward the sink. Then the real trial begins. Imagine the power and slipperiness of a freshly caught marlin and throw in bulldog jaws that bite and clamp down like a vice, and that's about how I perceive my son as I try to wrestle a toothbrush into his mouth. Sometimes tickles work and sometimes threats against his toys are the ticket, but one way or another I have to employ a combination of deceit, bribery, ultimatum, and prestidigitation to get the brush inside the mouth. It used to take about 15 minutes to do a so-so job, and I’m now good enough to do it in 5, but it’s still an imposing chore I don’t enjoy.
Suffice it to say that I'm always looking for things to make the brushing and bedtime routine easier. Forgive my divergence into experiences with my own children, but I know that some of our patients feel similar things with their own kids and are open to advice. Let me share with you the best thing I’ve encountered: the Youtube ap on your smart phone. Yes, it not only acts as a pacifier in church and a bribe for eating vegetables; it will get your kids to brush for two minutes and teach them how to do it as well! Here are a couple of the better videos I’ve encountered:
Big Block Singsong
Kids TV 123
Simply push play, place your mobile device on the sink and watch the magic happen. I’ve always hated Elmo with a passion, but if I can put him to work this effectively, I’m willing to let him into my home for a couple minutes each day.
For more great tips to help you take care of your kids' teeth, come visit our dental office in Orem, Utah.
-Nicolas K. Young, DMD