Is tooth-brushing ever a battle in your household? Have you bought every sort of toothbrush and toothpaste out there, and nothing seems to help the process go smoother? Some children may have sensory aversions to brushing their teeth (e.g. scratchy bristles and gritty toothpaste), while some children may have behavioral aversions to brushing their teeth (e.g. fear, anxiety, or control). Either way, try some of the strategies below to help your child be on their way to a brighter, healthier smile!
Tips To Get Your Child To Brush His Teeth:
1. Print off or create a picture of the mouth to use as a visual model/diagram: this will help the child to see what area of the mouth the parent is going to help them to brush (e.g. front teeth, side teeth, back teeth, molars, tongue) while also helping the parent to feel in control of the situation. Similarly, one area can be focused on at a time, rather than taking on the entire mouth in one sitting. Overall, both verbal and visual strategies help a child prepare for what is coming next, as well as to reinforce (e.g. “Now Mommy is going to massage your front teeth! Can you put a sticker on the picture of the front teeth?”).
2. Use a mirror, bite block, or flavored tongue depressor to help explore their mouth: this helps to provide both visual and tactile awareness to the areas the tooth brush will be reaching.
3. Rename the task: rather than calling it tooth-brushing, rename it with something less intimidating such as “tickling” or “massaging” so that your child does not associate pain with “brushing”. Similarly, instead of using more intimidating words such as molars, create new names such as “big back teeth”.
4. Use toothpaste during a non-toothpaste time: instead of only getting the toothpaste out in the morning and before bed, pull it out at random times throughout the day and explore it with your child (e.g. squirt it onto your finger or onto a paper plate, touch it, smear it, lick it, draw a picture with it, rub it between your fingers, brush your teeth using your finger). This will help to lighten the mood and will help them to explore with each of their senses (touch, taste, sight, smell).
5. Try a musical toothbrush: this provides the child with an auditory cue as to how long they need to brush for and when they can stop. It also gives them a time expectation (when the music stops, they are done, and they know it).