For a toddler, brushing can be pure water torture. Nonetheless, regular twice a day brushing is essential to developing healthy dental care. That’s why we always stress to our Cincinnati patients that they need to be brushing a toddler’s teeth, no matter how unpleasant. Yet there are tricks and techniques to make it easier. It may still be a chore (especially on your part), but it can be a much less painless bedtime routine.
Make It Fun
Yes, you may have to hold them down (that’s pretty typical). And while that may seem cruel, don’t sweat it. You’re not hurting them and this won’t be part of their psychiatrist bill when they get older. In fact, don’t sweat any of it. The whole process may be extremely frustrating on your part, but it’s important to not lose your cool. Keep it lighthearted, even if you have to hold down their arms and just go to town.
Sing songs. Make up a little dance. Keep the mood light and fun. Raffi’s “Brush Your Teeth” is always a classic, as is the Elmo video “Brushy Brush” with an amazing number of celebrity cameos. You can find both on YouTube.
Let Kids Pick Out Their Own Toothbrush
Another way of making brushing fun is to let kids pick out their own toothbrush, like one featuring their favorite cartoon character or animal. In fact, it might be helpful to choose 2 toothbrushes. This way they can hold and play with one while you put the other to work.
Let Kids Brush Too
Let them have the first turn. This helps to teach proper technique and lets them have their will power. Just realize they are going to be pretty terrible at it. That’s why it is still very important that you brush their teeth as well. That’s where the real action happens.
Brush Your Teeth in Front of Them
When it comes to teaching little kids, it’s important to practice what we preach. Make a habit of brushing your teeth in front of them, either just before or right after they brush theirs. Toddlers like to imitate us. Like the ‘80s drug commercial, “I learned it watching you.” The same is equally true for great oral health.
Have a Sticker Chart
Make your child a chart and reward them with a sticker every time they brush. Give them one for morning and another for night. Encourage the effort of what they accomplished, not the fact that they were good. Kids love stickers and they love rewards. It’s great positive reinforcement.