How to Encourage Reluctant Children to Brush Their Teeth

Do you have a reluctant tooth-brusher? There are several reasons why young children don’t like having their teeth brushed, but the top three in my opinion are:

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1. Because it makes them feel completely out of control (imagine how you would feel if somebody brushed your teeth for you?)
2. Because it disrupts what they would rather be doing/something that is way more fun
3. Because there is something about the sensation of it they dislike.

The answer then is to come up with a solution that mixes up all three. First reluctant children should always brush their own teeth, even if that only involves chewing on a toothbrush for a minute. The alternative here is to allow them to brush your teeth while you brush theirs. Taking turns to brush for 10 seconds or so.

Second don’t aim for a specific tooth brushing time and think outside of the bathroom. Tooth brushing while in the bath often works well, as does tooth brushing while watching a favourite video clip or reading a book. There are several great apps and youtube videos that encourage tooth brushing that work really well (I turn a blind-eye to the close the bed screen time this requires, it’s only for a couple of minutes and the positive for teeth outweigh the negative for melatonin inhibition). You can also turn it into a game and pretend you’re hunting for dinosaur bones or hidden treasure in their mouth.

Third investigate different types of toothbrushes, chewable rubber ones are often more successful, as are dental wipes. Some children are thrilled with an electric toothbrushtoo. Lastly swap out mint toothpaste for fruit ones, or other alternatives. As a grown adult I still HATE mint flavoured toothpaste with a passion, it’s a very strong flavour and knowing that young children have more sensitive taste buds than us, it makes sense to avoid anything very strong flavoured (Punch and Judy make a great strawberry flavoured toothpaste).


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Published by SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.

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