The latest Ministry of Health Annual Health Survey found that in New Zealand 35,000 children had teeth extracted in the past year because of tooth decay. However, it's never too late to introduce healthy dental habits. We ask parents how they encourage their children to brush and care for their teeth twicedaily.
1. Reward good habits
"I find that a star sticker chart never fails," says parent Helen WilsonBeevers. Research shows that when a child sees a visual affirmation of their behaviour (in this instance brushing their teeth twice a day), they're more likely to continue the habit. A star chart which is filled with two stars twice a day (one star for each teeth brushing) can then be exchanged for an activity of the child's choice at the end of each week.
2. Use an electric toothbrush
"My kids love electric toothbrushes, mostly to vibrate their mouths but cleaning is a lucky side effect," says parent Jackie Wilson. Research shows that electric brushes are more effective at removing plaque from teeth, compared to manual toothbrushes.
3. Make it fun
"I gave my daughter's teeth names and voices," says parent Bill Davidson. "For instance, 'Ooh thank you!' Gary, Barry and Harry would squeal with delight. 'What about me?' Penelope and Persephone would chortle from the back. It got her into it when I was brushing them and now she does it okay by herself, according to her dentist."
My kids love electric toothbrushes, mostly to vibrate their mouths but cleaning is a lucky side effectJackie Wilson
4. Use tasty toothpaste
"We use tutti-frutti flavoured toothpaste so that it tastes nice," says parent Lynlay Oram. " Our son is also exceptionally ticklish, so we run the flat side of the toothbrush against gums before brushing to desensitise them."
5. Use a timer
"We have a tooth brushing timer by the sink, it's like an egg timer and they brush till all the sand goes through," says parent Sharon Heir. Experts say that you should brush teeth for around two to three minutes each time . "We also use disclosure tablets which turn the kids' teeth blue. They then have to brush all the blue bits off."
Encouraging your children to brush their teeth twice-daily can help ensure that your children continue these healthy hygiene habits well into adulthood. And remember, set a good example by brushing your own teeth after breakfast and dinner every day.