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Keep Those Little Teeth Healthy

ages 0 - 6 months ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years check yourself health humor milestones routines Jun 01, 2023

Following up on the theme of keeping your parenting fun (see How to Make Your Parenting More Fun: Mr. Handy to the Rescue!), let’s talk about a topic that is not inherently fun: Children’s oral health.  Yup, you are in charge of helping your children to grow strong teeth with a healthy diet and to maintain those strong teeth with good dental hygiene.  

Genetics certainly plays a strong role in your children’s dental health, but there is so much you as a parent do to help your kids develop a healthy mouth that will benefit them for decades, maybe even a century, hereafter.  If you have ever had a cavity, you know that a) they can be painful, b) they require some unpleasant treatment, and c) they require a lifetime of dental follow-up because filling materials degrade and need to be replaced, each time having the risk of losing more of the original tooth and inching you closer to all of those awful words like dentures, bridges, crowns – all those scary dental issues I am so glad I have never had to deal with and will do anything I can to keep my kids from encountering.

First, the basics….When should you start taking care of your child’s teeth?  As soon as they’re born.  Get one of those little rubbery toothbrushes that cover your finger and gently brush their gums twice daily, even before they have teeth.  Keep up that habit with a regular child-sized toothbrush and a teeny dab of children’s toothpaste once they have a few teeth and a big enough mouth.  Flossing should ideally begin as soon as the first tooth erupts.  I highly recommend the stick flossers prepped with about a ½ inch piece of taught floss with a plastic handle.  Even with my big kids, I find those much easier to use than wrapping the floss around my fingers and trying to fit in their little mouths.

Second, when to see the dentist?  It is recommended that your child have their first dental appointment within six months of their first tooth erupting or by age 1.  However, depending on their comfort level with strangers and new settings, ability to sit still, etc., parents tend to wait longer, with most parents choosing to see the dentist between ages 2 and 3.  Unfortunately, waiting until age 3 or 4 can mean kids already have their first preventable cavity before a dentist ever gets the opportunity to see them.

Having older siblings helps get young children prepped for their first dentist, so they have a visual of the appointment before it’s their turn.  There are also fun apps to help with that; we used to have one called Ed The Dentist.  Choosing a kid-friendly dentist is very helpful.  The kids get to watch cartoons at our dentist’s office, which they love, and there are some toys in the waiting room to keep them content before their appointment.

Third, how do you keep dental hygiene fun?  This can be anything from colorful toothbrushes to flavored toothpaste to superheroes flying into their mouth to save their teeth from evil decay (get creative and keep it upbeat).  Several years ago, I decided I needed a pneumonic to help the kids remember to brush each section of their teeth every time they brush, and I knew that if I could come up with something fun, they would be more likely to use my technique.  Inspiration hit one day with a song loosely to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat.  It goes like this:


Left, Center, Right, and Slide Back

Left, Center, Right, and Slide Back

Left, Center, Right, and Slide Back

Left, Center, Right, and Slide Back

Molars, Molars, Molars, Molars

And Tongue


Which loosely correlates with the following:

 Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Merrily

Down Stream


It’s a bit of a stretch, but try to find a little rhythm as you brush your children’s teeth tonight.  The first four lines refer to the front side of the lower teeth, the back side of the lower teeth, the front side of the upper teeth, and the back side of the upper teeth, always sliding back across the biting surface of the teeth.  The molars line hits all four quadrants of molars and should be sung with a fun crescendo, getting louder and more dramatic as you move from the first to the fourth molar.  

You have to sing/hum the song very slowly to have time to brush each tooth along the way.  If this rendition isn’t quite working for you, see if you can come up with another fun pneumonic, whether a song or story or a counting game – anything that makes it more fun and easy to be sure your kids are brushing all their teeth.

Fourth, when and how do you guide your children to independence in their dental care?  Thank goodness, my kids have yet to have a cavity, but we did have a little scare when my oldest was 7, and the dental hygienist said he had a spot of tartar (a build-up of plaque) in the upper-right corner of his mouth.  I have since learned that this is a really easy spot for parents to miss when brushing their children’s teeth because it’s a tricky angle for those of us who stand on the right side of our child at the sink. You have to get your kids not to open their mouths quite so wide to be able to sneak the toothbrush between those teeth and their cheeks.  

I was so worried I had let my son down because, in the months before that check-up, he had started brushing his own teeth much of the time.  He had developed a good routine of going potty and brushing his own teeth before bed, and with three younger kids to be helping, my husband and I praised him for that and encouraged him to continue.  The hygienist told me she brushed her children’s teeth until they were 12.  At first, that seemed extremely late, but given the long-term impact of good dental hygiene, we have resumed brushing and flossing all of our children’s teeth each evening; the big kids brush their own teeth in the morning.  Of course, there are plenty of other domains in which they can grow their independence in the meantime – cooking, laundry, schoolwork, etc.

So think about what dental hygiene routine you have in your house and whether any changes could be helpful.  Schedule that next dental appointment if you haven't already - every six months.  And be sure to keep the routine fun!

Using humor as a parenting trick falls under the Check Yourself category in my 5 C’s parenting framework (see The 5 C’s to Amazing Parenting).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen. Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!



P.S. If you like the idea of getting intentional about your parenting and focusing on how you communicate with your children, you might be interested in learning more about my 5 C’s framework and continuing your amazing parenting journey with my free Bootcamps.  Find a Bootcamp specific to your child’s age and save your spot today.

Also, for more products to simplify those early parenting years, be sure to check out my Treasures - Early Parenting page.



Amazing parenting is not about always saying
and doing the right thing and raising perfect children.  It’s about becoming intentional in your parenting and proactive in learning skills to help you parent more effectively in a way that fits best for your unique parent-child dynamics.

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