How to get your kid to brush their teeth.

Sweeping away the “sugar bugs.” Playing “beat the timer.” Making funny faces. These are just some of the silly but effective ways my husband and I got our two daughters excited about taking care of their teeth. Our hard work has paid off: now, the girls are happy to brush twice a day and show off their pearly whites to the dentist.

For many parents, teaching kids good dental hygiene is a twice-daily battle. But as experts point out, it’s a fight worth having. Though it’s largely preventable, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease among children aged 6-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor oral hygiene has been linked to everything from speech delays to dental pain and infections to diabetes.

“We know that oral health is closely linked to overall health,” explains Mary Lee Conicella, DMD, Aetna’s chief dental officer. “If we make sure children receive proper dental education and care early on, it will help them to be healthy throughout their lives.”

Here are five ways to make brushing and flossing a fun — and regular — part of your child’s daily routine.

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