When our daughter’s first two teeth came in, I was so excited that I brought my work camera home to take close-up pictures. Our children’s teeth have a special place in our hearts. Caring for them can be challenging, yet exciting and even quite full of fun.
When I used to see a child with plaque and cavities, I would address the parents. I would wonder about the obstacles that could be limiting this child’s oral care at home. Today, I am better equipped with firsthand experience caring for my own child’s teeth. I understand that it is not easy. I let my patients know that getting children to allow parents to brush their teeth is the real challenge, but the conversation always brings joy to my heart.
We know about wiping babies’ gums with a soft, wet washcloth before their teeth come in. We know that, as the teeth start to appear, we should be using a baby toothbrush with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. In addition to these usual recommendations, I share advice based on my personal experience:
- Learn how to say “Ahh” in many melodies, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
- Babies love having their teeth brushed. But as they become toddlers, they want to do it on their own. Do not fall into that trap; they really cannot brush their own teeth.
- They like the taste of toothpaste more than the act of brushing.After sucking on the toothbrush for a while, they will hand you the brush if you are around or you will be looking for it in every corner of your house. Make sure that you have a spare toothbrush ready, because you may need it the next day.
- They also like floss when it is flavored. However, they should not be left alone because they can swallow it. If they already talk, they are very honest about it and will tell you that they swallowed it.
- Positive reinforcement works much better than warnings. Try, “Brush your teeth tonight so we can go to gymnastics class tomorrow.” It may work better than telling them that we cannot go to gymnastics class tomorrow if they don’t brush their teeth. With warnings, you may always get a negative response. You can try different methods of positive reinforcement. Technology incentives, such as playing on smartphone, may not a good idea before bedtime. Our daughter likes pennies and likes to put them in her piggy bank. She calls them lucky coins;s he hears that on the Mickey Mouse TV show. For $3.65 a year, you can get a toddler to brush at night; I think that is a great deal!
- Another approach is to hand them your toothbrush so that you brush their teeth as they brush yours. Stay back though; they can easily push the toothbrush far inside your mouth.
Now our daughter is two-and-a-half years old, which means that soon we will have to look for new ideas. How do you get preschoolers and older children to brush and floss?
Samer Alassaad, DDS