Brushing your toddlers teeth can be tricky for so many parents. Here are some tips and ideas to consider that will may mean you avoid prising your child’s mouth open and shoving a toothbrush in for a quick yet traumatic scrub twice a day and can more respectfully clean their teeth for them.
Sticking to a routine is key, it will help you to remember to do it and your child will expect it, surprising them with a toothbrush often freaks them. If you are sticking to your routine, you may even find that he asks for his toothbrush or goes and gets it at the usual toothbrushing time.
Once you have persevered with the routine initially you could start to be more flexible. For us, toothbrushing is first thing in the morning after a shower in the bathroom and on the bed in the evening before book and sleep time and if I forget I can be assured that he will remember and nag me for it!
Keep your wording consistent when creating your toothbrushing routine, it will add familiarity for your child. Always tell them what you are going to do before you do it and use the same words. Something like “It’s toothbrushing time” or “Please can you go and get your toothbrush”. You could even try making up a toothbrushing song that you all sing at toothbrushing time.
Try brushing your teeth at the same time as your child. Teach them that we all do it and we all do it happily. Maybe get older siblings involved all brushing your teeth in the bathroom at the same time. You do not always have to do this but maybe just for the morning or evening session you could brush together.
When it comes to actually brushing your child teeth be gentle. This is really important. You do not need to use force and scrub all his teeth in one go. Take your time, wait for him to open his mouth and let you. Consider taking a back quarter at a time then brush the front teeth. Do not rush this, it may take some time to begin with, especially if you have had to pin him down before. As your child becomes more compliant with time and routine it will get much quicker.
Let Your Child Brush Your Teeth
If your child really struggles to give you permission to brush his teeth, try letting him brush yours first. You’ll also realise just what its like to let someone loose in your mouth with a toothbrush and a rough technique!
Take turns and let your child go first. Let him have a go at brushing all his teeth then you can do them again properly. It is his mouth and he should not feel like the control has been taken from him if you are trying to respectfully complete toothbrushing.
Having a toothbrush each could help toothbrushing time. Your child may enjoy having his one and giving you your one. Your child could enjoy holding his out for the toothpaste to be added. There could be something about the ownership of his very own toothbrush that his parent does not use for his teeth that encourages him. It will also give him something to play with whilst you are brushing his teeth. It could initially distract him from putting his hands to his face when you are trying this out at the beginning.
It could be useful to use mint flavoured toothpaste from the very beginning or switching as soon as you can rather than a different flavour, like a strawberry. This will help you out in the long run. It is near impossible to get an older children’s or adults toothpaste in a flavour other than mint. It is best to get them used to it now and not have to transition them when they are older, if they will transition at all. You do not want to be battling with them to use toothpaste, it could feel like all your hard work now is for nothing if they end up refusing in a couple of years because of toothpaste. Disliking toothpaste as you grow or are an adult could be really damaging.
Children under 3 should have a toothpaste with at least 1,000ppm fluoride and they are often between 1,350ppm and 1,500ppm fluoride. You should only use a smear of toothpaste.
For hygiene reasons it is not advisable to leave all the families toothbrushes exposed in a pot together. This could be solved and really encourage your child’s toothbrushing by him having his own wash bag. You could consider letting him choose his own bag, bring it home, put his own toothbrush in it and put it on the side himself. He could enjoy leaning how to do the zip or popper himself. You could add a keyring of his choosing to the side. You could put an egg timer in the bag and have a whole set of his toothbrushing essentials. It could be a real treat for him and could make the whole experience more exciting and encourage him complete his toothbrushing routine more independently.
Finally, encourage your child at every given opportunity throughout the day. Read about toothbrushing or point out nice clean and healthy teeth in the pictures or on the TV. Help your child learn the words. Draw pictures. Sing songs. Toothbrushing is a lifelong skill that will help your child out for the rest of his life. If you continue to struggle with brushing your child’s teeth speak to your dental or hygiene therapist or your dentist. 8