Upon returning home from “date night,” you may not think to ask the babysitter, “Did they brush their teeth?”
Sending little ones to bed without brushing may not seem like a big deal, but less than 30 years ago, neither did buckling kids into car seats. And you would never let someone drive your children without a car seat. Look into the future: Cavities are nearly 100% preventable and brushing twice a day should never be skipped.
Why you shouldn’t let babysitters bypass brushing:
• Too many kids skip. Kids would rather finish their vegetables than brush their teeth. And more than 30% of parents said their children had to miss school because of an oral health problem. So every brushing counts.
Dental care should start before age 1. Even though baby teeth fall out, bacteria stays put.
° Ask sitters to make it fun! Leave a tablet in the bathroom so babysitters can pump up the jams for a toothbrush dance party. Start a brushing reward chart (download one here) and inform sitters about the ritual. This way you’ll know if the deed was done—without having to ask directly.
• Kids need help. Small children lack the dexterity to reach every pearly white. As exciting as it is to see little ones assert their independence, “I can do it myself!” most need help brushing properly. A good rule of thumb: Children can brush on their own if they can tie their shoes.
° Ask sitters to assist. They should brush the teeth children may have missed, such as the inside of the back molars. 5 seconds doesn’t do it—download an app that calculates toothbrush time. And don’t forget the floss! C-shaped flossers are kid-friendly and get the job done quickly. Because if they’re not going to do it right, what’s the point of doing it at all?
• Routines are good for kids. Children behave best when they practice regular routines. A bedtime ritual, including brushing and flossing, calms the body to set the stage for sleep.
° Ask sitters to stick to the schedule. Leave specific instructions about bedtime basics: how many books, what kind of toothpaste, etc. Make sure to put jammies, toothbrushes and water cups out ahead of time to ensure a (near) flawless routine.
• Other rules can be broken. Some rules can bend when sitters step in. Review what’s permissible when it comes to straying from the usual system. One extra book is fine, but an additional hour of TV is not. And dessert is OK, but no eating after brushing.