Bathroom Battles In Deep Cleaning Teeth – Brushing Strategies
It’s one thing for your dentist to advise deep cleaning teeth in your child twice a day for two minutes and to floss at least once, but they haven’t been to your house to see the chaos that ensues when getting the kids ready for school or daycare in the morning. Your dentist hasn’t seen the screaming matches that result from getting your child dressed in PJs for bed, let alone the battle in brushing their teeth afterwards. So how can we make this easier?
Post a picture of a mouth in the bathroom
Having a visual model will help the child to understand what parts of their teeth you are helping them to brush. You can brush the picture first so they understand what steps are coming up next. You can count how many baby teeth you see. You can place a star or sticker on each area as it is done. Its lengthens the process but breaking it up into steps can make it more palatable for everyone
Help them to keep their mouth open
Rubber bite blocks for foam bite sticks like the dentist may use are available online. Or try simpler home solutions like a (clean and new!) rubber doorstop, or a stack of Popsicle sticks taped together. I often suggest a little extra padding on the end from a few gauze pads. My personal favorite is a second children’s toothbrush with a big rubberized grip, used backwards. Keep this make-shift mouth prop on one side of the mouth while you brush the other and then switch.
Dentist games for kids
There are dozens of dental games and apps available (many are free!) that allow players to “brush” away the plaque and sugar bugs from the teeth. Virtual brushing can make the real thing more fun and easier to understand for kids.
Find the right position
Standing face to face with your child and holding their chin is rarely an effective way to brush. They can easily turn their head away or back and you can’t see anything beyond the lower front teeth. I always encourage parents in my office to “be the dentist”. The same way your child lies back on the dental chair for an exam and the dentist sits behind and faces in the same direction, you should adopt some of these positions too. Most important is to have some stable surface behind the child’s head, whether it is the arm of a couch, the bed, or your chest. Have your child raise their chin up – this will allow you better view of all surfaces of all the teeth.
Musical Two Minutes – “Brush Your Teeth” song
Two minutes can seem like a very long time to a child or to a parent holding a crying or struggling child. Sing or listen to a song that is two minutes long. Find a toothbrush that plays a tune for two minutes, sing the ‘Brush Your Teeth’ song, or watch a favorite video clip that is two minutes. You can use anything that will give your child a cue to know how long they need to brush and a time expectation – its also a very effective distraction technique.
Use toothpaste outside of brushing time
Instead of only getting the toothpaste out to brush pull it out at other times during the day and play with it with your child. Everyone loves to squish a tube of toothpaste. Squeeze some onto a paper plate, touch it, smear it, smell it, draw a picture with it, rub it between your fingers, brush your teeth using your finger. Do the same with old of cheap toothbrushes, they make great paint brushes! Playtime makes everything less fearful and allows your child to explore with each of their senses in a less frustrating setting.
These are just a few strategies that you can consider to help take the battle out of brushing time.
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Evan is a pediatric dentist and owner of Durham Kids Dentistry in Whitby, the only pediatric dental office in the Whitby Oshawa Bowmanville area.