Having a great set of teeth carries with it a certain cultural cachet. A nice smile opens doors. Straight white pearlies are a pathway to power, like an alabaster staircase with 32 gleaming steps that lead right to the executive suite, baby.
Of course telling your toddler this won’t help you when you come at their grill with a toothbrush clutched in your meaty fist. Having a toothbrush averse child is pretty high on the list of parental frustrations. Luckily there are some ways to bring them around to your point of view. None of these include watching BBC America.
Make Toothbrushing A Team Sport
Your kid is literally unable to grasp any explanation of why this chore should be done. Stick a bristled stick in your gob and move it around in order to grow better teeth in the distant future? The hell you say?
So instead of attempting to dumb it down, just join them when it’s time to brush. The more you model good behavior, the more likely it is your kid will join in. This does mean, of course, that you’re actually brushing your teeth too.
Offer Them Choices
Toddlers love feeling like they get a say in things. That’s because they never really get a say in things. So buy a whole bunch of kid brushes and a selection of weird, flavored kid’s toothpaste. Yeah, berry blast toothpaste might make you want to vomit, but your kid could really dig it.
When it’s teeth-brushing time (because it’s part of your daily routine, right?) go ahead and let them pick which toothbrush and paste they want. The combos might make them more of a chomper champ.
Forget The Paste
On the other side of the kid coin, there are those that don’t like paste. Period. But luckily for you, most dentists agree the brushing at this age is more important than the paste. So if it helps to go without, fine. This does not mean, however, that you can start brushing with vodka.
Use Your Fingers
This is something you might remember if you’ve ever woken up in a stranger’s bed. Chances are you did the old, put-the-paste-on-the-finger trick, and rubbed your chicklets down. You can do this for a kid that bristles at the bristles. They might be more comfortable with your finger in their mouth (even though they don’t know where those fingers have been). Just wash your hands beforehand, ‘kay?
Keep It Short
There’s no need to make tooth brushing a marathon. In fact, the longer it goes, the more difficult it’s going to be to get your kids to want to do it again.
While you’re keeping it short, give your kids a way to time it. A little toy hourglass is a good visual clue and easy to use. A short silly song also helps. And in these modern times, they even make toothbrushes that play a tune while your kid goes to town on their mouth. What will they think of next?
Make Brushing A Part Of Playtime
Buy a toothbrush just for play. And then pretend every chance you get. Have them brush their stuffed animal’s teeth. Their action figure’s teeth. Play dentist. Just do whatever it takes to reinforce the idea that this is a normal thing.
A great way to let them get the toothbrushing anxiety out of their system is by letting them brush your teeth. You might be a bit hesitant to have your kid poking around your face with a fuzzy spear, but flipping the dynamic can break up the fear. Even better: during this time they might let you finish off their teeth too. Which you should try to do any chance you get.
Lower Expectations And Relax
The more frustrated and shouty you get, the less likely your kid will want to make toothbrushing a daily activity. The idea is to make tooth time a part of daily life. And the only way you can do that is if you approach it with consistency and a smile. The very same smile that’s been opening doors for you since day 1.