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When a Child Resists Brushing-Practical Advice and Tips

2016/12/15   |   Back to News


You’ve tried hard to set a good example for your kids on the right ways to brush and floss. Yet despite your best efforts, you have a child who for one reason or another resists brushing. What is a parent to do besides scream and yell? Believe it or not, this is actually quite a common problem, which is why we provide the following advice to our patients with stubborn children.

Advice for Toddlers

Toddlers often resist brushing their teeth as a way of asserting their independence. As such, it is not unusual for young children who were once obedient brushers to suddenly become stubborn and unwilling. If you have a toddler who is resisting, try one of these tricks:

  • Allow your child to pick out a toothbrush and toothpaste. Some kids are actually happy to brush if they have a toothbrush shaped like their favorite cartoon character or a flavored toothpaste.
  • Use an hourglass timer. Many times, children are fascinated by watching the sand flow out of the timer, and will happily brush just to watch it.
  • Give your child a sticker for brushing, then offer a reward once a certain number of stickers have been accumulated.
  • Make brushing fun by playing music and dancing.

Advice for Older Children

Older children are not easily “tricked” into brushing their teeth, so you will need to take a different approach. Show your kids pictures of people with bad teeth and explain that this is what happens when people do not practice good oral hygiene. You may also need to limit candy or sweets if your child persists on refusing to brush.

It may seem like a hassle, but you could need to supervise your older child much as you would a toddler. Often times, the idea of being watched is so offensive to kids that they eventually decide to start brushing again on their own. If not, you may need to limit video games or television until your child begins complying.

Advice for Teens

Teens sometimes become complacent in their personal hygiene, in which case you may also have difficulty getting your child to bathe. There are a number of reasons for this, including depression and fluctuating hormones that often cause teens to feel lethargic. If your teenager is no longer interested in maintaining personal hygiene, you should not simply dismiss this as a stage that he or she is going through (although it is entirely possible that’s all it is). Seek guidance from a medical professional if your child is having difficulty adjusting to puberty or is showing any other signs of depression such as poor performance in school.

Kids often go through stages of not wanting to brush, so it is important to know what to do during each one. Having a child who refuses to brush can be frustrating, particularly when signs of tooth decay start setting in. Don’t wait until then to start addressing the problem, as we are always happy to work with parents just like yourself who are struggling with this very issue.

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