Tips on how to brush your kids teeth
Getting your little ones to brush their teeth can be a real battle. If you happen to be a single parent or even try this alone, it may be challenging. Some kids like it, some hate it (we think boys are more stubborn than girls). Here are a few tips Dr. Danielle (the Wheaton orthodontist) and Dr. Bryan have found effective both at home and in the office. Dr. Briney, our Wheaton pediatric dentist, has added in her professional and personal mom thoughts as well!
Our top five tips to brushing your child’s teeth.
- Show and tell. First, brush your teeth right in front of them. Say something about how you are going to clean your teeth, then just stand there and do it in plain few of them. The idea is to show them that brushing is a normal everyday thing. If you make a big deal out of it or start talking about how easy it is they will be suspicious of why you need to try to convince them to brush. When done brushing, casually mention how nice your mouth feels.
- Sibling pressure. Have them watch an older sibling brushing.
- Expect some resistance. A little is normal and needs to be overcome.
- Try it in their highchair. If you feed your child in the highchair than you have already desensitized them to having something in their mouth while sitting in the highchair. Children will be less resistant to you messing with their mouth when sitting in the place they usually are fed.
- Pick your battles. Don’t force it on the bad nights (overly tired etc.) I bet we skip 1-3 nights a week, although it becomes less as they get older. In fact do not attempt at all on those nights because………….
Yes we have more tips on getting the little ones to brush!
- Follow through. Once you attempt, you must finish the job or you re-enforce the bad behavior
- Count the teeth. Ask how many teeth they have on top and then count them out loud as you clean them. Kids love counting! Plus it’s a learning experience.
- 5-10 second rule. I’ve found little kids love when you count while doing anything. I always say “OK 5 (or 10) seconds here” and then count to 5 or 10 while brushing the area I am in. I divide the upper and lower jaws into three parts; left, front, right.
- Move FAST. I bet our average brush time is 30-60 seconds depending on their mood.
- “Tickle, tickle!” Tickle the roof of their mouth with the toothbrush when you are done and say “tickle, tickle”. My kids think that’s funny for some reason.
A few more helpful tips on brushing your child’s teeth.
- WE’RE in a hurry! Pretend you are in a hurry. Bennett never opens at first and then I start saying things like “Hurry, Hurry we have to read our book”. Or “wasn’t it fun to play outside today let’s hurry and brush our teeth so we can do that again tomorrow”. Something about us needing to be a team and get it done fast makes him cooperate more. Talking about something they did that was fun that day makes them think back and get distracted and although it makes no sense that our hurrying to brush should impact us being able to do it again tomorrow, they seem to buy it.
- Read your child. Go with whatever signals you get of things they seem to like. Bennett was in a phase where he had to have me finish by brushing his tongue. Maybe he gets that from seeing me use a tongue scraper, not sure. All I know is one day he said “tongue too!” and for about four months he wanted to end with that.
- Tag team. Make it a 2 person job if you need to.
- Play time. Let them play with their tooth brush and put it in their mouths themselves even when not brushing. This desensitizes them to a toothbrush.
- Find the right combo. One parent/child combo will almost certainly work better than the other. Bennett would almost always fight Danielle but I can make him do it fairly easily. It may be because I am the one that baths and puts him to bed, but I think little boys just naturally fear their father more and will listen more when we get stern.
- Diet is VERY important! As long as you stay away from juice and sugary stuff you don’t really need to do much to ensure they don’t get cavities. Just use fluoride toothpaste starting around 2 or when they will spit out the extra.
Our doctors that deal with pediatric patients daily and thus are “in the trenches” when dealing with oral hygiene issues.