How Do You (Or Should You) Bribe Your Kids For Good Oral Health?

Parents, can we let you in on a little secret from us in the dental community? We have used candy or other sweets as bribery to get our own children to eat their vegetables or get out the door on time. Are we proud of it since, as professionals, we advocate for fewer sugary treats that damage your teeth? No, but we are humans and we can be weak when it comes to the power gummy bears hold over our kids. We get it. At the end of the day we are all tired and the thought of one more argument over eating dinner just isn’t doing it for you. 

 Bribing and healthy smiles

However, creating a good oral hygiene routine is just as important as finishing greens on a plate, so how can you ensure your kids get in the habit of brushing and flossing without the lure of candy? To prevent you from having to research that on your own, we have compiled a list of the best ways to bribe, err incentivize, your children to create a lifelong good oral health routine. 




What’s better than a sweet treat for a bribe? A free one! Sometimes the best rewards for kids are not the most expensive, but the most innovative. To reward good brushing or continued flossing, try some of these examples.  


  • Extra screen time. 
  • “Play” the parent – this one is fun and allows your child to be the parent for 15 minutes (or however long you can stand it). Let them guide you through your routine and pick out your clothes.  
  • Cook their favorite meal for dinner. 
  • Ride in the front seat of the car without having to swap with siblings (only if they are old enough and meet the height/weight requirement). 
  • Family game or movie night where the child gets to choose what you play or watch. 


Small prizes 


One of things we hear frequently is that Skittles or M&Ms are such an easy treat because they are affordable and small. You can’t reward daily adherence to good oral hygiene with a toy or an adventure since it is cost prohibitive. If you have a child that succeeds through tangible rewards, try out some of the smaller (and cheaper) suggestions below. 


  • Instead of reaching into the candy jar, reach into a jar of marbles. Each marble represents a completed task, and when the jar is full it can be redeemed for a bigger reward. The bigger the jar, the longer compliance is required. 
  • Stickers! 
  • For kids that like to craft, give a jewelry bead for time spent brushing. You child can add the beads to a string and have a necklace when they are done! 
  • Pennies! Younger children love change, and before they fully understand the value of a dollar, they can easily bet persuaded by your cast-off pocket change. Consider giving a penny or nickel for their piggy bank to reinforce good behavior. 


Bigger rewards 


Reinforcing good oral hygiene for kids can be a long process. Once you think they have the fundamentals cemented, you can shift away from the small trinkets to one larger reward for a job well done. This can also signify the transition away from bribing for compliant behavior to just expecting it. These are a few of our favorites, but let us know what your family enjoys so we can add to the list! 


  • Choose a special adventure with a friend such as a trip to a museum or amusement park. 
  • A toy or gadget that you child has had their eye on. 
  • A trip to the movies or a sporting event. 


If you child has demonstrated a good oral hygiene routine, then let us know! At their next appointment feel free to let us know quietly (if they would be embarrassed you told us) and we can heap on the praise and encouragement. We are all in this together and we want to reinforce the routines that are being set at home! 

Also published on Medium.

About Mark C. Marchbanks, D.D.S.

Dr. Mark Marchbanks has practiced dentistry in Arlington Texas since 1983. He enjoys caring for patients young and old. You can find Dr. Marchbanks on
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