10 Tips for Parents of Kids Who Resist Having Their Teeth Brushed

crying baby

Chasing a defiant toddler around with a toothbrush is more likely to end in smears of toothpaste on the furniture and a tiny mouth that refuses to open than an effective lesson in oral Hygiene. For parents that have attempted to plead, bargain, and even threaten their way into their child’s mouth with a toothbrush, here are ten hints and tips that might make the experience a more productive one.

Model Good Oral Hygiene Habits – It’s no secret that children love to mimic the adults that they love and trust, so letting your child watch you brush your own teeth can be an effective way of encouraging them to form good oral Hygiene habits as well.

  1. Encourage Independence – While a toddler might not do the best job of brushing their teeth, they are generally quite talented when it comes to asserting their independence. Letting your child attempt to brush her own teeth will help her form the habit. Depending on your child’s individual temperament, it may also be easier to finish the job properly if you’ve allowed her to begin the task herself.
  2. Make the Process Fun – Singing a silly song, making a point of brushing teeth to attack fictional “sugar bugs”, and maintaining a playful, upbeat attitude can make a world of difference when it comes to convincing your child to let you brush her teeth. Rather than fighting for dominance with a child that’s just learning to assert her independence, make it a point to keep the entire hygienic process as fun and exciting as possible.
  3. Establish a Routine – When your child knows that brushing her teeth is part of her routine at certain points of each and every day, it will become progressively less difficult to handle. Keep in mind that introducing a change to the schedule you’ve previously established is almost always difficult in the beginning, and try to be patient until your little one adjusts.
  4. Enlist Your Dentist’s Help – Whether she’s offering a plaque-disclosing rinse that turns your child’s teeth a different color until they’re brushed properly or simply advising you on the best methods of establishing an oral Hygiene routine, your dentist is a great resource for all things related to your child’s oral health. Don’t be afraid to approach the subject of dealing with resistance to brushing teeth at your next visit, if you feel that the situation is not improving.
  5. Let Kids Choose Their Own Toothbrush – While many parents shy away from commercially licensed products, a toothbrush with your child’s favorite princess, hero, heroine, or cartoon character may be just what she needs to get excited about brushing her teeth. Allowing her to choose her own toothbrush also gives your child a measure of control over the process, which can also make brushing her teeth less of a battle.
  6. Consider a Xylitol Toothpaste – The naturally-occurring sugar alcohol xylitol is not only appealing to kids due to its sweetness, but is also recommended by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry for cavity prevention in children due to its efficacy in preventing tooth decay. Using flavored toothpaste that features this helpful and appealing compound may make your little one more receptive to having her teeth brushed, especially if you let her choose a flavored brand.
  7. Offer an Explanation – For some stubborn children, simply explaining why brushing their teeth is essential may be enough to convince them to relent. Harried parents often have a tendency to focus solely on accomplishing an unpleasant task, rather than providing the explanation for why it’s necessary to baffled kids. Talking about cavities and tooth decay in a way that your child will understand may help to end the struggle.
  8. Use a Musical Timer – Making a game of brushing your child’s teeth by using a musical timer provides the fun aspect that kids are looking for, while also ensuring that little teeth get the attention they require for the prescribed amount of time.
  9. Stay in Control of Your Temper – It’s easy to lose your temper when you’re forced to fight the same battle on a daily basis, but shouting at your child because she won’t comply is likely to make her dread having her teeth brushed even more. Try to be patient with your little one, and work through the initial rough patch.

Many parents opt to forgo the struggle of brushing kids’ baby teeth, reasoning that they’ll be falling out soon anyway. While this is essentially true, having dental work on baby teeth can be a traumatic experience and often requires the use of general anesthesia. Furthermore, the habits that you help them establish during toddlerhood and the preschool years will also determine how well they care for their permanent teeth when they get older and oral Hygiene becomes more of their own responsibility.