What can I do?
If you start brushing as soon as your child gets their first tooth, by the time they gets to the ‘no!’ stage tooth brushing should hopefully be a normal part of their routine.
Put on a show.
Let your child see you brushing your teeth. If you make it look really fun, they may want to do theirs too. Talk about what you’re doing as you clean, “flick flick, up the top, way at the back”. If you brush your teeth at the same time as them you’re showing them it’s what everybody does.
Make it into a game or song.
A tooth brushing game can distract them from what’s going on.
You can try:
- Shark/dinosaur - get them to grin like a shark while you brush the front teeth then they roar like a dinosaur so you can get to the back.
- What do I see? - make up things you can see in their mouth – “ Oooh, I can see spaghetti in there –let’s get that off! And there’s a pea – that’s been there since last week!"
- Or make up a silly song just for them – "The brush in your mouth goes round and round…”
If you pretend to be a dentist your child might be so distracted by being the patient they forget to resist. Put a chair in the bathroom, check their name with them and welcome them in, tuck a clean flannel or paper towel down their front etc. Talk about only needing a pea sized blob of toothpaste and show them the amount before you begin brushing. You could even include some flossing! (Hint some kids love this so much the dentist visit can take a while, so save it for nighttime brushing.) This can also help make their first visit to the dental nurse less scary.
Let them pick out their own toothbrush.
If they can let them choose the colour and style of the toothbrush, they’re much more likely to want to use it. The same goes with toothpaste, just make sure it’s designed for their age. Talk about only needing a pea sized blob of toothpaste (unlike the television ads) and show them the amount.
Give them choices (within reason).
You can’t let them choose not to brush but you can let them decide when: eg do you want to brush your teeth before or after you put your pajamas on? It’s even better if the choices are silly ones - shall we walk to the bathroom backwards or forwards?
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?