Struggling with a child who won’t brush her teeth can make bedtime a nightmare. Here are a few things you can do to help your child learn to love brushing their teeth.
Most dentists recommend brushing your child’s teeth until she is seven years old. When it’s finally time to give up that responsibility and let your child have a go at it, you might feel nervous. What if he misses a spot? What if they swallow the toothpaste? Or what if they just don’t like it?
Dealing with a child who won’t brush her teeth can make bedtime a nightmare. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help your child learn to love brushing his teeth. Here’s how to do it:
1) Set a good example
When your child is young, you are his biggest role model. You’ve probably heard your child copy the way you talk or the phrases you use most often. He also might mimic the way you sit at the table or what you do with your hands.
Be a good role model for your child and brush your teeth in front of him every day. It’s best to start this practice before giving your child the reigns as it teaches her that brushing teeth is part of a daily routine. It’s something that needs to be done every day.
Try to brighten up the routine and make it seem more fun. Maybe you sing a silly song while you brush your teeth or have a special dance reserved for this time. Any sort of fun activity will get kids excited to start brushing their teeth on their own.
2) Get the whole family involved
A child who sees Mom or Dad happily brushing their teeth every day will want to join in the fun. Get your partner involved in the activity and turn brushing your teeth into a family affair.
Start this activity when your child is young, too young to brush her own, and try to make it fun every time. Try to brush your partner’s teeth while he or she brushes yours. Let your child brush your teeth or hold down the dog while your child tries to brush its teeth. Anything to make brushing teeth seem fun and exciting will get kids into a routine, one that will carry on into adulthood.
3) Don’t let toothpaste get in the way
For some kids, toothpaste can be the biggest factor hindering their love of brushing their teeth. Don’t let this happen. Though they will have to eventually learn to use toothpaste, your main objective should be to at least get them into the habit of picking up their brush every morning and evening.
If toothpaste is the problem, let your child brush their teeth with a wet toothbrush. Of course, it’s not nearly as effective, but it’s better than nothing.
4) Embrace positivity
Some parents let their frustrations get in the way. Even if your child is slow to embrace brushing, don’t assume all hope is lost. You can still instill good brushing habits in your child.
Never use the dentist as a form of punishment, as in “If you don’t brush, you’ll get a cavity and have to visit the dentist.” This turns the dentist into something to be feared. Although it can be tempting to use this tactic, don’t try it.
Instead, use positive reinforcement. Keep track of every time your child brushes her teeth each day and at the end of the week, have a small reward in mind. Maybe they get to pick out a special snack or get ten extra minutes playing video games.
The key to getting your child to love brushing his teeth is to make it a fun activity, something they can look forward to. If you can accomplish this, then your child will be all set to make positive dental decisions in the future.
Mark Burhenne, better known as Dr. B by his readers at AsktheDentist.com, has been a family dentist in Sunnyvale, California for over 25 years and answering questions online since 1996. Sign up for his weekly newsletter to get access to his live Q&A webinars, free eBooks, and checklists with exact steps for maximizing your dental visits.