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Getting Your Child to Brush Her Teeth

June 27, 2008

Are you tearing your hair out trying to get your child to brush his/her teeth? (me too!). Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful for ages 6 months to 7 years. I compiled these from various sources in the internet.

  • I sing the toothbrushing
    ”I brush, brush, brush my teeth Brush them left to right I brush them up and down To keep them clean and white”
  • An electric toothbrush worked magic for us as did bringing a favorite stuffed or plastic animal along to ‘model’ brushing. Using words like ‘say ahh’ and ‘eee’ helps them position open their mouth rather than clamp it shut.
  • I had the same teeth brushing issues with my toddler.  What ended up working best for us was when I asked her to say "ahhhhh!" when opening her mouth big so I could brush her molars, and "teeeeee!" for teeth so that I could brush the front of her teeth.  This seemed to work a lot better than holding heron my lap while she cried (even though this allowed me to get to her molars it wasn’t pleasant for either of us!). I guess making lots of sounds made it more fun for her because she was interracting with me while I made the same sounds.
  • Brushing teeth is fun!  Sit on the floor with him in front of you, facing in the same direction.  Then have him lie back on the floor with his head in your lap.  Then he has to roar like a lion, or a crocodile, or a dinosaur, or . . . .  Sometimes you have to guess who is roaring.  (Roaring requires the mouth to be wide open while you brush furiously.)  Sometimes you’re very scared that a bear is going to roar at you and you’re ALWAYS scared when it happens!
  • We told her that she would get a turn ”all by myself” and that one of us would also get a turn, ensuring that some actual teeth-brushing would happen.  We then asked her whether she would like her turn first or last.  If she chooses to go first, we have her set a digital timer (she ”believes” thetimer if she sets it!) for some amount of time, like 2 minutes, otherwise she would sit there and suck water off the toothbrush all night. So when my daughter would refuse, I would suggest that we brush each others teeth. This worked quite well — she would sort of brush my teeeth and then I would brush her teeth. When I brushed her teeth I would try not to hold her too tight or in a awkward position — I had hated that too!
  • I want to share a technique that has worked wonders with brushing and flossing my son’s teeth.  We came up with it when he was 2-1/2 or 3 years old.  My sister tried it with great success with her daughter as well.  It can be adjusted depending on what your child is really interested in.  For instance, at the time we started doing the Magic Dentist my son was really into Super Heroes (and loved to pretend he was a Super Hero), so I geared it accordingly.  First I would start to create some interest, and say something about an amazing Magic Dentist that I had heard about.  I would start to build it up gradually, saying that the Magic Dentist would only work on Super Heroes, and the Magic Dentist only showed up at certain times, you never knew when, etc.  Later, I would suddenly say something like "I think the Magic Dentist is coming!",and then I would go sit on the bed, cross-legged, and announce "I am the MAGIC DENTIST, and I ONLY work on Super Heroes! Are there any Super Heroes around here?"  I might also say something like "Oh well, I guess there aren’t any Super Heroes around here today.  Too bad."  Invariably, my son would take the bait, leaping around with excitement and saying he was Batman, or Superman, or whoever, anxious to have his teeth looked at by the Magic Dentist.  My sister, whose daughter is into pink ponies, would be a Magic Dentist who ONLY worked on pink ponies, and it worked like a charm every time. Then I (the Magic Dentist) would have him lay down with his head on my
    lap (I would tell him that I didn’t believe he was a real Super Hero,
    and the only way I could tell if he really was one would be to look at
    his teeth), He would then open his mouth to show me that he was,
    indeed a Super Hero! I would act totally astonished, and, continuing
    to talk about what an amazing and powerful Super Hero he is, and what
    amazing strong teeth he has, I would floss and brush his teeth with no
    problem whatsoever.
    I couldn’t believe how well it worked, and my sister had the same
    results.  My son is 6 now, and flossing and brushing is a breeze.  We
    sometimes do the Magic Dentist just for fun, though now he is usually
    a Power Ranger instead of Batman.  He has come to actually enjoy
    having his teeth flossed, and reminds me about it if I forget.

  • This is an area where parents can really benefit from following their child’s lead. Examine the child’s interests and create a game
    stemming from it. The idea isn’t to instill a duty to brushing, but
    rather to make brushing teeth an enjoyable experience until it becomes
    a habit.
  • Make it a game. Let them get a certain bedtime story or song (or
    maybe get TWO stories) if they can brush all their teeth. Get them to
    count each tooth as they brush it.