Brushing teeth isn't always the most fun for kids, but parents know the negatives to not brushing — the bad breath, the discoloration, the cavities, the dentist bills. Teaching your child dental hygiene takes consistency and time.

  • As soon as you see that first tooth in your baby's mouth, start brushing. You can get a toothbrush that fits over your fingertip to make it easier. 
     
  • As your child grows, purchase a fun child's toothbrush and brush your teeth together. Children love to copy what you do. Use that to your advantage.
     
  • Let her play. Allow her to use her toothbrush, or a second toothbrush to brush the teeth of her stuffed animals and dolls.
     
  • Teach your child how to hold the toothbrush correctly, at an angle against her gums. Show her how to brush gently, in a back and forth motion on all sides of the teeth. And don't forget about that tongue.
     
  • Your child won't be able to brush her teeth effectively on her own until she is about six years old. You'll need to brush her teeth a second time to ensure all teeth are cleaned. After age six, continue to keep an eye on your child's tooth brushing until you are confident she is getting all of her teeth.
     
  • If your child is fighting brushing her teeth, don't be afraid to show her pictures of the teeth of people who don't brush. The images aren't pretty.
     
  • If your child still refuses to brush, try cutting out all fun foods — anything with sugar and anything like pizza or burgers. Stick to pureed foods, oatmeal and other soft foods. Tell them that until they brush morning and night, these are the only food they will be eating.
     
  • Don't forget to introduce your child to flossing. There are fun flossing tools at the grocery stores and drug stores perfect for children. Show them the food that comes out from between their teeth when they floss after they brush.

Dental health is important to your overall health. Periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, and premature birth. It's important to start your children off on the right foot when it comes to having a healthy mouth.