The last thing any parent wants is a battle with their child to brush their teeth – especially at the end of a long day.
It’s important to look after your child’s teeth from the moment they appear so they don’t develop tooth decay. Healthy baby teeth are needed for chewing and proper speech development.
Part of that is making sure your children's teeth are brushed twice a day (as well as having a healthy diet that’s low in sugar and having regular check-ups with the dentist).
So, what if your child refuses to brush their teeth and won’t let you near them?
Here are some top tips to help you overcome a tooth-brushing resistant child:
1. Get started early
Start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to show, usually at around 6 months of age, so they get used to the feeling (and to prevent tooth decay).
2. Use a gentle approach
Try not to use punishments, threats or rewards to get your child to brush their teeth. A gentle parenting approach centres around respecting your child and helping them develop good habits because it’s the right thing to do.
3. Have a set routine
Have a set routine in the morning and evening that incorporates tooth brushing so that it becomes a normal part of your day that you don’t change. For example, in the evening, your child gets into their pyjamas, brushes their teeth, then has a goodnight story.
4. Let them choose their toothbrush
Let your child feel like they have some control and autonomy by letting them choose their own age-appropriate toothbrush. There are lots of cool ones to choose from. If they don’t like the taste of the toothpaste, try a different age-appropriate one.
5. Let them practice on a toy
Give them a spare toothbrush to practise brushing their doll or teddy’s teeth.
6. Have a special song
Try having a special song that is only sung when your child lets you brush their teeth.
7. Make it fun
Making it a game can be fun, eg, counting all their teeth as you brush them or seeing what shapes they can see in their toothpaste spit.
8. Read stories about dental health
See if your local library or bookshop has any books about dental hygiene that are aimed at kids so they understand the importance of looking after their teeth.
9. Let them brush your teeth
You could try allowing your child to gently brush your own teeth for a bit before you have a turn doing theirs.
10. Let them do their own for a bit
Similarly, you could let them do their own for a bit before you do it for them.
- Looking after your child's teeth Health Navigator NZ, 2020
- How to (gently) get your child to brush their teeth The Conversation, Australia, 2018
- Caring for your baby's teeth Ministry of Health, NZ, 2019