My name is Kyle Hornby and I am a Dentist in Kitchener, ON. Each week, I set out to provide tips to help patients improve their oral health (or the oral health of their little ones). Today, I look at simplifying the task of brushing your Toddler’s teeth!
Dentists recommend wiping the gums of a baby with a cloth early in life. This is to clean plaque and limit the amount of fuel available to the harmful bacteria that live in the mouth. Once teeth begin to erupt around 6 – 10 months of age, the transition to brushing becomes really important.
As a Kitchener Family Dentist, I hear from many parents about the challenges that come with trying to brush their little one’s teeth. Often times, children won’t stay still or “buy in” on the new daily habit. This may be due, in part, to the fact that the activity doesn’t make sense to the child. It may also be due to the fact that your child can’t see what’s going on when you brush their teeth.
Here’s a secret: it can really help if your child is able to see what you’re doing and if you are able to make the activity a bit less scary and a lot more fun!
So here are 5 great tips to make brushing your toddler’s teeth much easier.
Start Without Toothpaste (If it helps…)
Sometimes, you’ve got to play around with variables to fin out what your barriers are. Often, children need to ease into the newness of brushing teeth. Let’s face it, many toothpastes have a strange taste and texture. Some kid’s toothpastes come with a flavour to make things easier but even those may be initially off-putting to your little one.
In some cases, toothpaste may make your child gag or want to spit often. This limits your ability to brush their teeth wherever makes them feel comfortable. Adding toothpaste to the routine demands that you brush near a sink. So, start without it as it will open up the freedom to brush their teeth anywhere they like.
Take Home Message: try for the first few weeks to a month to brush your toddler’s teeth using only water.
Let Them Brush Your Teeth First!
Here’s an idea: if you let your toddler brush your teeth first, they’ll develop some real hand skills that they can eventually use for brushing on their own. Also, it will demystify the whole routine for them and they’ll see first hand that it’s simple and doesn’t hurt.
If they’re old enough you can even explain where food sticks to teeth and use the experience to teach them what teeth and gums are. Do this enough and you may even have a future Dentist on your hands (that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, would it?)
Once they’re done brushing your teeth, see if they’ll brush their own. Even if this exercise helps them to feel more comfortable with letting you brush for them, it’s a win!
Use a Mirror to Help Them See What You’re Doing
Above, I wrote about getting rid of toothpaste so you don’t have to be tied to the bathroom for brushing. Now I’m suggesting brushing in front of a mirror. What’s the deal?
Well, this brushing your toddler’s teeth thing is something you may have to feel out a bit. The reason that brushing in front of a mirror can be helpful is that it allows your child to see what’s going on. This may help some kids who are more visual in nature.
Generally, if your toddler can see what you are doing, the whole activity will seem less unknown and therefore less threatening.
Crank the Tunes!
The more fun stuff you can link to the activity of brushing, the better. Playing fun songs about brushing your teeth (or just fun songs in general) may help your toddler to associate brushing their teeth with “fun time”.
The easiest way to do this is to bring a tiny wireless speaker to wherever the brushing party is happening. Both Raffi and the Sesame Street gang have fun tooth brushing songs that you can find on YouTube.
Avoid Having your Toddler Lay Down for Brushing
This is a big one. It’s tough on parents because the mouth can be a bit of a dark cave, sometimes. Having your child lay on their back during brushing enables better vision. But, as you brush, they’ll salivate more not to mention the added water or even foaming from the toothpaste.
All of these things can cause your toddler to gag or even feel helpless during brushing. Ideally, try to help them brush in an upright position. You may sacrifice a clear line of sight, and your back might not be happy with you afterward, but keeping your child upright during brushing is key!
By Dr. Kyle Hornby, Kitchener Dentist
Our Kitchener Dental Office is conveniently located in Downtown Kitchener and we are a short drive away for families in Waterloo, Breslau & St. Jacobs. Our central location means we truly offer family dentistry near you!
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Accordingly, always seek the advice of your Dentist or other healthcare providers regarding a dental condition or treatment.