It’s completely normal for a toddler or even an older child to be apprehensive about brushing their teeth. They can view it as aggressive and a bit scary, especially in their younger years when the adult is the one holding the toothbrush (which should be the case until about the age of 7), and they have no control. Many parents throw up their hands and feel lucky if they can get a toothbrush in their child’s mouth, much less brush for the whole two minutes. Normally, toothbrushing happens in the middle of the chaotic routines of either getting ready for the day or getting ready for bed. If this situation resonates with you, you are not alone!
Giving up on the toothbrush is definitely not the answer when your child refuses to use it. There are ways to make the experience a fun one and help your child feel like they have control over what’s happening. Kids love to feel like they have power in a situation, so the worst thing you can do is force a habit on them where they feel powerless. This will only result in unnecessary frustration for you both. With some easy steps, you can turn the experience into an exciting one that your child may actually look forward to! Let’s talk about some fun and unique ways that you can help your kids overcome their toothbrushing fears:
- Carry a toothbrush around with you throughout the day. Let them play with it and brush their teeth outside of the typical setting. The key is to make them feel secure about the habit, and that it is a normal part of daily life.
- Use a fun song as the two minute timer. Let them move around. Even if you can’t brush their teeth perfectly, they will associate toothbrushing with positivity, and that’s the most important part when they are little and nervous.
- Make sure they can see themselves as you are brushing their teeth. Do it in front of the mirror, so they can see what’s going on and don’t feel blind to what’s happening to them.
- Get the whole family involved. They will feel alone and isolated if they are the only one brushing their teeth. Allow them to play around with brushing your teeth and always brush your own teeth in front of them. Let them see you smiling and enjoying the activity of brushing your teeth together.
- Let your child pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste flavor. Again, this comes down to giving your child a feeling of control. If they can take ownership of the process, they are much more likely to feel positive about the whole experience. Find some options that are colorful and depict their favorite cartoon characters, and let them choose from the lot.
It’s easy to rush through this twice daily habit with your kids, but it’s important to take the time to make them feel secure, and even excited, about brushing their teeth. Dental fears are common for everyone, even adults, but this does not have to be the case! The older your children get, the harder the battle will be to instill solid dental habits, so make it a priority to ease their toothbrush fears from an early age.