I am mother to 3 children as well as a dental hygienist. I am often asked how do I brush my child’s teeth when they constantly fight me! This is a tough question with no easy answers. But then again, what is easy about raising a toddler or preschooler? Not much. But oh, what joy they bring us.
As parents our goal is to raise grown adults that function well in society and ultimately make the right choice in a given situation. Wow, what a challenge that is! Teaching our children to make the right choice doesn’t start when they’re fifteen. We have to start giving our children the opportunity to make choices early and often when it’s appropriate. The idea is the cord gets longer and longer until they need us less and less. Oh, what a sad thought for us Mama’s. But helping our children brush their teeth is one of the many opportunities for them to grow along the way to adulthood.
You’ve fed your little one dinner, bathed him, and you’ve read him a book. And of course, you have just cleaned up the 9 gallons of water he has splashed onto the bathroom floor as well. Now its time to tackle the daunting task of brushing those little chompers. Now maybe your child loves brushing and easily concedes. But maybe your child is more like my little man, who is not so fond of brushing. Is it the toothpaste? I don’t know. But, I would bet it’s being forced to do something, anything, without being given any choice. But more on that later.
First, some basics on tooth decay. Sugar is the biggest culprit in causing tooth decay. Some children also have very deep grooves in their teeth. The combination of these two can be difficult to combat with brushing alone. The best thing you can do for your child to avoid tooth decay, is avoid sugar between meals. If you give them sugar at meal times their little bodies are better able to neutralize the acids that cause tooth decay. The more often they are exposed to sugar throughout the day the more likely decay will develop in their teeth.
With all of the above said, the following are some guidelines and pointers to help make brushing easier on both Mama and child. These are some basic ground rules about caring for those little chicklets:
1. Work on creating a habit, not quality of brushing. Part of caring for your child’s teeth is just simply creating a habit. Don’t worry too much about how well you are brushing their teeth. Children at this age do not build up too much plaque or calculus (you know, the soft & hard stuff). Forming the habit of brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is far more important than how well they (or you) brush. That way by the time they are brushing on their own you (or I) are not trying to retrain them to brush everyday.
2. Go Shopping! Take your child shopping and let them pick out tooth paste and a toothbrush. It’s so much more fun to brush with a toothbrush you love! You’ll be surprised how much more empowered your child will feel. Consider shopping right after a trip to the dentist when they are likely feeling more motivated.
3. Shop some more! Try an electric or battery operated toothbrush. Kids love them and are much more likely to want to brush using one. As a dental hygienist, I’m not a big fan of the inexpensive battery operated toothbrushes, however, for the sake of getting your child excited about brushing, they’re great. And if you’re ready to take the plunge and invest in a solid electric toothbrush, I recommend the Kids Sonicare.
4. Choices, Choices, Choices! Try giving your child some choices during the process. “Sweetie, would you like Mommy to brush your teeth with the red brush or the blue brush?” Or “Honey, do you want Mommy to brush before story time or after?” Seriously, this is so simple, but you’d be amazed how well this works with a stubborn toddler or preschooler. Choices are great for other challenging parenting situations as well.
5. Go Easy On Yourself! Last of all, you are a loving, patient, and amazing mom chosen to raise your sweet little angel by an amazing God. You, Mama, were created for this job and no one does it better than you. Don’t let negative self talk tell you otherwise!
Hope these tips help make your job a little easier tonight. Okay, now go tackle that kid and get ‘er done!
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