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Parents have harder time getting kids to brush than to eat vegetables

Delta Dental provides tips to motivate kids to brush and floss

OAK BROOK, Illinois (March 4, 2015) – Think it’s tough to get kids to eat their vegetables? It may be even tougher to get them to brush their teeth. That’s a finding from a new survey of more than 1,300 parents released today by Delta Dental1 in conjunction with National Parenting Month in March.

Nearly half of parents (45 percent) say getting kids to brush their teeth is one of the most challenging things to get their kids to do. That’s slightly higher than getting children to eat vegetables regularly (42 percent) or getting their help with household chores (41 percent). Forty-one percent of parents also said it was a challenge to get their kids to floss their teeth regularly.

Therefore, it’s not surprising most parents think their children’s oral health isn’t as good as it could be because they don’t brush (52 percent) or floss (38 percent) often enough. Almost a third (32 percent) of parents admit that their children’s teeth are brushed just once a day or less often, and a majority (61 percent) report their child’s teeth are flossed less often than once a day.

“At some point, most parents will struggle with getting their children to brush and floss. Until they are a little older, it’s hard for kids to understand the importance of oral health,” says Dr. Bill Kohn, DDS, Delta Dental Plans Association’s vice president of dental science and policy. “If parents make sure children’s teeth are brushed and flossed from a very young age, it becomes part of the routine without question.”

Parents are working to get on the right track, however, according to the survey. Fifty-eight percent of parents have specifically made oral hygiene a routine in their homes, and 31 percent have asked other family members to enforce good oral health habits. As far as their strategies to encourage good habits, parents are more likely to give rewards for good behavior (53 percent) than punish bad behavior (16 percent) to get their children to take care of their teeth.

Delta Dental provides some positive ways to make brushing and flossing an easier item on the to-do list.

"It can be hard for young kids to understand the importance of oral health, but the Tooth Fairy is doing a great job of helping them get more excited about taking care of their teeth by leaving gifts that promote brushing and flossing," Elliott said.

Be a role model. Kids love to imitate their parents. So when they are young, make dental care a family activity by brushing and flossing in front of and with children. Among parents who have taken recent action to improve their children’s oral health, nearly four in 10 (39 percent) are already doing this by brushing their teeth at the same time as their kids do. During family brushing time, reverse roles and let your child brush your teeth. It’s fun for them and demonstrates the correct way to brush.

Reward good oral health. More than half of parents (53 percent) say rewarding kids for good behavior would be the best way to get them more excited about improving oral health. Create a chart that keeps track of daily oral health habits and reward kids for consistently completing tasks.

Call in reinforcements. For parents whose children stubbornly neglect to brush or floss, maybe it's time to change the messenger. Call the dental office before the next checkup and let them know what's going on. The same motivational message might be better received if it comes from a third party, like the dentist.

1 Kelton, a leading global insights firm, conducted the 2015 Delta Dental Children’s Oral Health Survey. Interviews were conducted nationally via email with 1,325 parents of children ages 12 and under from Dec. 2, 2014 to Jan. 2, 2015. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of error is ±2.7 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.