Every parent goes through the same arguments with their child every night. Yes, you do have to have a bedtime. Yes, you do have to have a bath and brush your hair. And then the big one that everyone dreads: yes, you have to brush your teeth. And while we’re at it, no, running a bit of cold water over your gums doesn’t constitute a proper tooth brushing.
Every parent knows that this is a behavior you have to install early. Habits are learned, and the sooner you begin them, the easier they are to continue. You want to get your child associating with fresh teeth with cleanliness and good oral health as quickly as possible. This isn’t just about teeth looking good; there can be severe health ramifications to poor oral care. Unfortunately, those arguments don’t tend to fly with a child.
If you’re tired of the daily battle, then there are a few tricks you can use to make the process simpler. First and foremost, however, investigate if there could be a legitimate reason your child doesn’t want to brush their teeth.
Are You Using Appropriate Tools?
Toothpaste that is overly-minted can be deeply uncomfortable for adults, never mind children. If your child associates brushing their teeth with a burning tongue, it’s only natural they’re going to want to avoid it. The same goes for toothbrushes. Most adults use a medium or hard brush, but this might be too much for a child to handle. Soft bristles are generally more friendly, and studies have shown they are just as effective.
Child toothpaste does exist, in more attractive-sounding flavors like strawberry. Unfortunately, they’re also packed with sugar- the exact thing you want to keep away from teeth! Look for options that use Xylitol as a sweetener- not only does it have a good taste, but it’s also good for oral health in its own right.
Are Your Child’s Teeth In A Good State To Begin With?
As soon as milk teeth are appearing, it’s a good idea to take your child to a dentist for an examination. Regular check-ups help prevent problems before they happen, though this can be a strain on the family budget. Nevertheless, the importance can’t be underestimated. You can look to come to an agreement with your dentist or investigate insurance plans like Guardian Dental to help meet the costs. Then you can just focus on getting what’s needed, rather than going with what you can afford. You need to give a good basis to go from with at-home care.
With the above taken care of, it’s time to put on your most persuasive hat and get down to it.
Stick Over Carrot
Perhaps this more suits your parenting style, or you just generally don’t like to beat around the bush. Working this way means your child is brushing their teeth, and their thoughts on it don’t matter. You give strict instructions and supervise the process.
The upside to this is that teeth get brushed. The downside is that forcing something onto a child rarely makes them want to repeat it. There is a chance your child responds well to no-nonsense discipline like this, in which case, don’t break it if it’s not broken.
Simple Rewards For Simple Tasks
Think of a food your child loves but that you would rather they didn’t have too often. It doesn’t need to be something sweet, and try to keep it low calorie and as healthy as possible – but it’s got to be appetizing. You’re going to teach your child how to “earn” it. Pick up some star stickers from a stationery store and create a weekly chart on some paper. After every successful tooth brushing, you give a star. At the end of the week, they’re rewarded with the Forbidden Food – and of course, have to brush right after it! Knowing their efforts are moving towards something can help.
Make It A Family Thing
Many toothpaste ads show the entire family in front of the sink brushing their teeth, but how many of us actually do that? If you make it a family, group activity, then it appeals to your child’s natural instinct for inclusion. You can even give them special tasks, like setting the two-minute timer and keeping an eye on it. That way they feel useful, and you can supervise – without it being obvious you’re doing so – from up close.
Compliment Their Teeth and Smile
If your child is going to spend time doing this activity, they need to know it’s worth it. Every few days, take a moment to tell them how good their smile looks. “Your teeth are sparkling,” you comment, with admiration. They immediately connect the activity with the self-esteem boost. We’re all programmed to do things that earn us compliments and praise, and we’ll keep repeating them for the same excitement. By reinforcing well outside of the actual event of toothbrushing, you bring the consequences into reality. Talk to friends and family and ask them to do the same.
Get Out Of Jail Free Card
Incentives work for some children, such as the above sticker method resulting in a favorite food. For others, they’ll do anything to get out of certain tasks. If there is a household chore, you know your child hates, switch out the reward and instead make it a pass from doing that chore. One full week of stickers means they get to sit out the task the next time it needs doing. They’ll quickly learn to associate clean teeth with avoiding things they don’t want. Yes, it gives you an extra chore to pick up, but it’s worth it for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.
Finally, if you are still struggling for months on end, do see a dentist for help. There might be physical or psychological issues your child is struggling, so get them ironed out at a young age. Happy brushing!