My wife and I just learned an expensive lesson. Our son, age six, has six cavities that need to be filled. I guess it’s poetic. He has one cavity for each year of his life.

We were surprised when the dentist told us because we have always brushed our children’s teeth and have been diligent about doing it twice a day. However, I guess we weren’t diligent enough.

It’s made us rethink the way we handle dental hygiene and the fun (sarcasm intended) wrangling our kids each night to brush their teeth. Here are some ways to make teeth brushing and dental care less tense and more productive.

1. Use a Timer

You want to make sure that your children brush their teeth for two full minutes. That’s not counting all the horsing around, of course. Find an app on your smartphone, use the timer in the settings, or pull out an old-fashioned egg timer and use it every night. The rule is that there must be solid tooth brushing the entire time or they start over.

2. Show Them How to Be Gentle and Thorough

My kids often attack their teeth like they’re trying to scrape paint off the wall. All children need to be shown that oral care requires a light, gentle touch with the toothbrush and a dedication to being thorough. It’s not about speed. It’s not about strength. It’s about being kind to your teeth and gums while working to clean them.

3. Floss

Oral B recommends beginning to floss your child’s teeth when they’re as young as two years old. You might want to double check with your dentist before doing so and also inquire about tips for flossing with a squirmy child.

4. Schedule Regular Cleanings

You should schedule your child for regular cleanings by a pediatric dentist. If you start early, the dentist can not only catch problems, but it will give your child a solid foundation of dental care. Plus, regular visits will make them less scared of the dentist’s office.

5. Make It Part of Their Nightly Ritual

We are all creatures of habit and our children are no different. If you insist on nightly tooth brushing, your children will grow up expecting to do it. There can be no excuses about brushing each night. Once you bend the rules and let your kids slide, they will continue to do so.

6. Use Proper Toothpaste

If your child is old enough to use fluoride toothpaste, use it. If not, use some of the starter toothpaste on the market. Also, ask your dentist about when fluoride is appropriate for your kids.

7. Watch Them

You cannot trust that your children will use your tips and brush properly. You need to watch them and make sure they are covering all the areas of the mouth and brushing with proper skill. If your kids are young enough, you may have to step in often to give them a refresher.