Winning the Toothbrushing Wars
It’s not uncommon for toddlers to engage in power struggles. After all, they’re testing their boundaries and trying to figure out life’s rules. So why should things be any different when it comes to brushing teeth? That said, it’s important for parents to remember that brushing teeth is not an optional activity, even for little ones. Brushing prevents tooth decay, the most common childhood disease, which can begin as soon as your little one’s first baby teeth emerge!
Nearly every parent will be faced with toothbrushing resistance at some point during their child’s early years, complete with whining, crying, maybe even tantrums. Before you completely give up and resort to either skipping out on brushing or finding a way to forcibly brush your child’s teeth, try some of these ideas to help you win the toothbrushing battle for good:
How To Help Your Child
- Start early.
The earlier you begin brushing with your child, the more routine it will become. Before teeth emerge, wipe your baby’s gums with a damp cloth after each feeding. Start brushing once the first tooth arrives.
- Let your child choose the gear.
Not only does this allow your child to have some control over the toothbrushing experience, it also increases the chances that your little one will look forward to using the products. Toddlers can choose among character toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes and flavored toothpastes. Your child can also choose flavored floss or floss holders.
- Make brushing fun!
Is your current toothbrushing routine any fun? Consider adding in some silliness:
Play music while your child brushes. It creates a great atmosphere while also helping you make sure your child brushes for the recommended two minutes.
Create your own toothbrushing song. Sing it to a tune your child already knows such as “Jingle Bells” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Talk to your child’s teeth. You can pretend to search for hidden food: “Where are those carrots you ate for dinner? They must be in here somewhere!” If your child likes superheroes or princesses, search for them amongst the teeth. The sillier your idea, the more fun it will be for your little one.
Bring along a friend. Your child may enjoy “brushing” the teeth of a favorite stuffed animal or doll before you brush his or her teeth.
- Time it right.
Aim to brush before some highly desirable activity. If your child enjoys a story before bedtime, brush right before. If bath time is fun, combine it with brushing.
- Offer a reward.
Use a toothbrushing chart to track how often your child brushes without a fuss. Place a sticker on the chart with each success. Then offer a reward when your child obtains a certain number of stickers. Rewards don’t have to be big; an extra story at bed time can do the trick.
- Make it a family affair.
Brush your own teeth while your child brushes. If there are other people in the home, they should brush with you, too.
- Be consistent.
If you brush in the morning after breakfast and at night before story time, keep it that way every day. This consistency will help your child know what to expect, leaving less room to complain.
- Lead by example.
If you practice good oral hygiene, your child will know it’s important. Be enthusiastic about showing your little one how fun brushing is and exaggerate your motions so they are easier to copy.
Regular dental visits offer you a chance to ask your dentist or pediatric dentist for other ways to make toothbrushing less of a battle.