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Tough Love Brushing

Parents- would you ever intentionally hurt your child? Do you willingly cause them pain? Would you ever try to give them a preventable disease?


Of course not!


We all love our children and want to do the best we can to keep them healthy and safe. Our lives are consumed by taking care of our children and providing them with everything they need to grow, thrive and live healthy and happy lives.


And yet, when it comes to brushing the teeth of infants, toddlers and preschoolers, we often allow the fear of making our child unhappy get in the way of doing what is best for them.

“It makes him mad.”

“He hates brushing his teeth.”

“She fights me the whole time.”

“I can’t brush his teeth. He won’t let me.”

“She doesn’t like it. It makes her cry.”


Do any of these phrases sound familiar? If they do, you are not alone. In fact, it’s pretty normal for most young children to resist having a parent brush their teeth, and very few are going to love it. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not necessary.


Think of it this way: a couple minutes of crying or being angry with you each morning and evening is a LOT less stressful and painful than a mouthful of cavities or having to spend hours in the dentist office having dental work done.


Every tooth needs to be brushed, even when there is only one. But how can we do this in the least stressful way so that you don’t have to start and end every day with tears and frustration? Here are a few tips to help you get started. I promise that the more you do it, the easier it gets!


How to Get Your Young Child to Let You Brush His or Her Teeth:


  1. Start early and do it often. 

It seems like the last thing you need or want to do when you have an infant. With so much on your busy plate and already exhausted from caring for a young baby, their non-existent teeth seem unimportant. But, by wiping their gums each night with a soft wash cloth and even brushing them lightly with a finger toothbrush, your infant will get accustomed to having your hands in their mouth and it will be a natural transition to brushing their teeth when they begin to arrive.


  1. Have a routine and stick to it.

Be consistent about wiping gums and/or brushing teeth each morning and night. By incorporating it into your child’s routine each day, they will come to accept it as something that has to get done before they can start their day or go to bed. It will become an expected part of their day. Children thrive on routines.


  1. Get silly.

Think of a song your child likes and change the words to be about brushing. My wife uses the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with the words below. It’s catchy and takes the kid’s attention off the brushing while she gets it done.

Brush, Brush, Brush Your Teeth.

Every Single One.

Up and Down and Round and Round

Brush Until You’re Done.


       There are lots of songs on the Internet and Pinterest to choose from if you don’t have your own! You can also have a brushing dance or a funny brushing time voice - whatever makes your child look forward to these two minutes.


  1. Start small. 

If your child truly hates brushing, gets really upset or even combative, start with small segments of time and work up to the recommended two minutes. Most six-month olds aren’t going to let you brush for too long, but as long as you can get each of their teeth and their gums, you are helping fight off bacteria. Build up the time as they get more cooperative, older and more teeth.


  1. Use technology. 

There are several great brushing apps available that will entertain and encourage kids to brush for the whole two minutes. Our oldest daughter loved the Disney app and would use it every night to willingly brush the full two minutes.


  1. Make it fun.

Sometimes, a fun toothbrush is all it takes. Most retail stores now sell fairly inexpensive electric and Spin brushes with every character you can think of on them. Even a fun timer can encourage kids to brush longer.


  1. Use tough love.

None of us want to be the mean guy, but sometimes it’s the only and best choice. Brushing your child’s teeth isn’t optional, even when they are young. Sure, they may get mad and they may cry, but I can promise you that there will be more tears - from both your child and you, if their beautiful smile begins to get riddled with cavities and decay, and they are forced to spend time in the dental chair having cavities filled.


As always, Anderson Pediatric Dentistry is here to help you and your child become successful at taking care of their teeth.  We welcome questions and would love to show you the best brushing and flossing techniques to keep your child’s smile bright and give you both Something to Smile About!

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