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    Help! My Child Doesn’t Let Me Brush Their Teeth!

    Maybe you have a little one who has never really enjoyed letting you brush their teeth or maybe you’ve noticed as your child has gotten older, they’ve become more independent and are no longer as cooperative as they once were.

    Whilst this is entirely normal as children go through various stages and changes, it can be exhausting, and the power dynamic can be a real struggle!

    Here are some tips if you find yourself dreading the thought of pulling out the toothbrush!

    From an early age

    • Try establishing a good oral care routine from an early age – we found that brushing after our daughter gets dressed in the morning and before reading books at night has been helpful because she now expects it. Predictability can really help take the fight out of it!
    • With supervision, allow them to play with their toothbrush in a non-stressed environment to allow them to feel ownership over it and to get used to the feeling of it being in their mouth.
    • Keep hands occupied with a toy or another toothbrush for them to play with while you brush their teeth – some kids just don’t like staying still for too long.
    • Be realistic – being consistent and persisting even when it’s a struggle is more important than giving up completely – brushing at all is better than nothing!
    • Try brushing in different places or positions:
    • Knee-to-knee – where you and another adult or caregiver place your knees together whilst sitting down. The child’s legs are secured by one adult and their head is placed in the lap of the other.
    • Using a change table – this is particularly helpful to reduce strain on your own back and can often mean you can get a better look into their mouth. 

    From toddlerhood

    • Talking to your child in an age-appropriate way about why it’s important to keep teeth and gums healthy and clean.
    • Work up to brushing for 2 minutes (only necessary once your child has all their teeth) – try counting to five and cleaning as many of their teeth as possible and then slowly increasing to ten, fifteen, twenty and so on until you no longer need to count.
    • Try brushing in different places or positions:  
    • The bath or the shower – this may provide an alternate sensory experience (water, temperature) and distract them from what’s happening in their mouth.
    • In their highchair – sometimes brushing their teeth in their highchair is helpful if they tend to throw themselves around. Try standing behind them and leaning their head against your legs.
    • Knee-to-knee – where you and another adult or caregiver place your knees together whilst sitting down. The child’s legs are secured by one adult and their head is placed in the lap of the other.
    • In front of the mirror – it can be helpful for your child to see themselves when brushing. A toddler step in the bathroom or learning tower may also elevate them enough to spit into the sink if they are old enough to do so.
    • Try brushing with them in front of a mirror to make it interactive.
    • It can be helpful to have multiple toothbrushes and let them pick which one they want to use – this could include ones with different characters or colours (The Wiggles and Bluey are a big hit in our household!) or even a kids’ electric toothbrush.
    • Try having different toothpaste options – some kids can be very averse to certain flavours so letting them pick which toothpaste they want to use may incentivise them to let you brush their teeth!
    • Multipack floss picks that are different colours – try turning it into a game and getting them to guess which colour they’ll get!
    • Letting them practice brushing the “teeth” of their dolls or stuffed toys – it may even help to brush teddy’s “teeth” first and then your little ones.
    • Make it interactive and show them what you want them to do – try and get them saying “ahh” or “ch, ch, ch” as this will change the shape of their mouth and allow you to get in there more easily.
    • Reward system or sticker charts can be very helpful – decide on how many days and/or nights they need to have brushed and flossed their teeth without disagreement and reward them with something they’ll enjoy – but we advise sticking away from lollies!
    • Positive reinforcement – let your child know that you’re proud of them for letting you brush their teeth – this goes further than you might think!
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