I get this question many times from parents. Many times I get children and adults coming into the office and it is clear that they are not brushing their teeth. When I ask if they brushed their teeth today, they answer "yes". It is perfectly clear to me that they have not brushed their teeth but I move on because I don't want to embarrass anyone by confronting them. How do I know they didn't brush? It is quite clear by the amount of debris on the teeth. Even if they did the worst job possible, you wouldn't have this much debris on the teeth.
I recently had a young man of 13 in the office. He had just had his braces removed perhaps a month or two earlier and his gums were inflamed, fiery red. I ran a probe over his teeth and huge amounts of white gunk (plaque) came off with the probe. I asked him if he brushed his teeth today and he answered "yes he did". The amount of plaque and the redness of his gums really worried me because this was a fork in the road for this young man. Either a life of cavities and gum disease and eventually tooth loss or a beautiful smile with minimal tooth issues. I asked him how long he had brushed his teeth today and he said a half hour.
I gave him a new tooth brush in the office and asked him to brush his teeth the way he does at home.
He brushed a little here and a little there and told me he was done. I asked him how long he thinks that he brushed his teeth for and he answered, 1 minute! I told him that he had brushed for 20 seconds. I then took the tooth brush and systematically brushed his teeth so that I reached every area in his mouth in a systematic fashion.. I brushed his teeth this way for 2 minutes then I asked him to repeat what I had done. He tried, didn't quite do it that well but he started to get the idea. I guided him to the the system that would let him clean every area and to how long it should take. I told him he needs to do this morning and evening. I had him back in two days and we repeated the same process with him brushing then with my repeating and then with him brushing again. I brought him in a week later and his oral hygiene had improved tremendously. The red was almost gone and the teeth were clean. We repeated again what we had done previously and I am bringing him in again in a month from now.
So how do you get them to brush? You need to be involved, you need to work with your kids. You need to let them understand that you are going to keep working with them until they brush their teeth regularly and the way you show them. The actual technique of brushing is not as important as the regularity of brushing and the time spent each time they brush They will come to the realization that it will be better for them if they just put a little effort into it themselves. Eventually this will become a habit and they will brush for life. You have to think of yourself as their personal trainer in the brushing department except that you are not getting paid. Remember, spend the time with them!!!!
All the best
Dr. Ron Barzilay
Having fun doing dentistry in Hamilton Ontario