Few young children will routinely brush their teeth without gentle persuasion (and by that I mean repeated nagging) from mom and dad.

Encouraging our kids to brush without being told is not always an easy task, but it is an important one. Dental health is an integral part part of a child's overall physical health, so if you're feeling discouraged, consider the following ways to teach your kids to take care of those pearly whites.

Basic Tips for Encouraging Kids to Brush

1. Start Early

Before you ever buy baby's first toothbrush, you can wipe new baby teeth clean with a soft cloth. Toddlers who are already used to having their teeth cleaned are often far more receptive to the idea of brushing their teeth later on.

2. Model the Habits You Want to See

You are your child's first teacher and role model. Let them see you brush and floss daily, or better yet, make brushing and flossing a family affair.

3. Don't Underestimate the Power of Fun

Sometimes, all it takes is a toothbrush with a favorite character or one that lights up and plays music to encourage a child to brush. Singing special songs can also make the ritual a lot more fun, particularly if you're willing to make a total fool of yourself.

4. Choose the Right Toothpaste

Whether you're for or against fluoride, looking for the most natural product or just the cheapest, there's one thing you have to consider: taste. A child who enjoys the flavor of his or her toothpaste is more likely to enjoy brushing.

5. Buy the Colored, Hand-Held Flossers

Santa Claus left these in Christmas stockings at our house, and they have been a huge hit! My kids love flossing with them, but my rule is that they have to brush first, so now they're always eager to brush their teeth.

6. Create a Rewards Chart

Motivate your kids to brush their teeth with printable rewards charts where they can keep track of their daily brushing and earn rewards for consistently completing the task.

7. Rely on Educational Tools

Often, children pay more attention to a message when they don't hear it from their parents. You may have better luck getting those teeth brushed if you read books about dental hygiene or pop in a video like The Adventures of Timmy Tooth.

As for No. 8...

The Delta Dental Health Theatre: A Fun New Way To Learn About Dental Hygiene

The tips listed above are great for encouraging kids to brush their teeth, but sometimes parents need a little more help in explaining why taking care of our teeth is so important in the first place. Usually, a lesson in dental hygiene isn't exactly something that most kids are going to enjoy.

But the Delta Dental Health Theatre is changing all that. At the newly renovated dental theatre (which I'm lucky enough to have in my hometown of St. Louis), kids get to watch an upbeat, interactive program where they learn all sorts of fun facts from a dental health educator, and are entertained by both puppets and a talking toucan. Yes, a talking toucan, aptly named "Youcan Toucan."

"We are very excited about the theatre's new interactive offerings and how they will help better enable us to teach children about how their dental health and overall health go hand in hand," says executive director Shannon Woodcock.

Even if you don't live in St. Louis, or won't be visiting any time soon, you can still take advantage of the wide variety of fun, interactive games available on the Kids Page of the Delta Dental website. Kids can play online games, watch videos, and download activity sheets all designed to teach them about the importance of a healthy smile.

And more importantly, they'll be having fun, so they won't even be aware that they're learning at all. Who says education has to be boring?

Do you struggle to get your children to brush their teeth? What is your favorite way to educate your kids about the importance of good dental hygiene habits?

Disclosure: As a Healthy Smiles Mom, I was invited to attend a free preview of the newly renovated Delta Dental Health Theatre. All opinions about the theatre and the programs it offers are my own.

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