As a Dental Hygienist, I come across so many parents that have the hardest time getting their little ones to cooperate when brushing their teeth. The earlier you start them on the right track the easier it will be later on. I have some fun and easy tips to take it from frustrating to fun!
- Start them young (if they’re still tiny). If your child is still an infant, give them a toothbrush at around 6 months to play with while supervised. Babies love to put things in their mouths so letting them play with a toothbrush will get them used to the feeling of bristles in their mouth. That way, as their teeth erupt, you can ease in and take their hand in yours and brush with them while they’re none the wiser. When you start them off this way and stay consistent there is nothing to get fussy about; that’s just the way it is and the way it has always been.
- Be positive. Keep it fun and exciting! Let them pick out their own toothbrush with their favorite character on it. Make it a contest about who can brush better and the winner gets a sticker! You can also trick them at this point depending on their age. I tell my son all the time when we’re examining the results of our contest, “Wait what’s in there? I think you missed a spot! Is that…. Is that a sugar bug??? Yuk! Oh my goodness let me get it before it gives your tooth a booboo!” and I jump in there with a toothbrush and go over his work. You can also download and print out a toothbrush chart and let them put a sticker on the day and night every time they brush (here’s a link to one of my favorite charts http://rewardcharts4kids.com/wp-content/uploads/brushteethrewardchart.JPG).
- Be consistent, patient, and talk to them. The key with kids is consistency! Whenever we introduce something new I feel like we go through a 3-12 day adjustment period. But if you stay patient & consistent (I know it’s hard sometimes to do both at the same time) it will become a way of life in no time. There will be times when they don’t want to do it and start to fuss but never under value a good talk. I know I just wrote about tricking them in the previous paragraph, but I feel like a lot of times people underestimate children’s intelligence. Many times when my son is throwing a tantrum my patience says “put him in time out so fast his head will spin”. But, I find that just the opposite gets much better results. I kneel down, ask him to come give me a hug and tell him when he’s done crying and settles down that I want to talk to him. When he’s ready (because it’s useless to talk to them when they’re all riled up) I tell him that I’m just trying to do what’s best for him. I’m trying to make sure we clean out all the sugar bugs because if we don’t they will eat a hole in his tooth and it will hurt him a lot. I don’t want him to hurt so I then ask him if he will help me keep the sugar bugs out and let me brush after him (of course he has to do everything by himself first lol). Kids are smart and sometimes just hearing our care and concern gets them in the mindset to cooperate more willingly.
I hope this article makes things easier because healthy habits formed young are the ones that last a lifetime. A lot of these principles can be applied to not just brushing their teeth, but to many aspects of your child’s daily care. Be creative, be positive, be consistent, patient, and when needed…have a heart to heart.