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My toddler resists getting his teeth brushed. What strategies can I use to encourage cooperation during toothbrushing? My toddler understands that brushing his teeth is part of our bedtime routine, but he often protests and becomes uncooperative. He willingly takes the toothbrush and toothpaste, enjoying sucking and chewing on it for a short while. However, when we try to brush his teeth properly, he starts screaming and squirming, requiring one of us to hold him while the other brushes his teeth. This process only takes 20 seconds, but I would like to find a way to avoid this resistance. Once we finish brushing, everything goes back to normal. Answer: Establishing good oral hygiene habits in toddlers is essential for their dental health. While it can be challenging when your child resists getting their teeth brushed, there are strategies you can try to make the experience more cooperative and enjoyable for both of you. 1. Make it fun: Turn toothbrushing into a game or an interactive activity. Use colorful toothbrushes with their favorite characters or play their favorite song while brushing. You can also let them choose their own toothbrush at the store to get them excited about using it. 2. Lead by example: Show your toddler how you brush your own teeth by doing it together as a family. Children often imitate their parents' behavior, so seeing you take care of your own oral hygiene can motivate them to do the same. 3. Give them control: Allow your toddler some autonomy by letting them hold the toothbrush and practice brushing on their own before taking over. This gives them a sense of independence and involvement in the process. 4. Use positive reinforcement: Praise your child for their efforts during toothbrushing, even if they don't cooperate fully at first. Offer small rewards such as stickers or a special bedtime story for successful toothbrushing sessions. Positive reinforcement can help motivate them to participate willingly. 5. Make it a routine: Establish a consistent toothbrushing routine that your toddler can anticipate and expect. This helps create a sense of structure and familiarity, making them more likely to cooperate over time. 6. Try different techniques: Experiment with different toothbrushing techniques to find one that works best for your child. Some toddlers may prefer circular motions, while others may respond better to gentle back-and-forth strokes. Find what makes your child comfortable and stick with it. 7. Seek professional advice: If your toddler's resistance persists despite trying various strategies, consider consulting a pediatric dentist or dental hygienist for guidance. They can provide additional tips tailored to your child's specific needs and offer professional advice on maintaining good oral hygiene. Remember, patience is key when dealing with resistance during toothbrushing. Stay calm, be consistent, and continue reinforcing the importance of oral hygiene in a positive manner. With time and persistence, you can help your toddler develop healthy dental habits while minimizing the struggle during toothbrushing sessions.
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Our daughter displayed many of the same behaviors your cite and we had to resort to having one parent hold her while the other brushed her teeth properly. What we found helpful, though, was to have the parent brushing the teeth to say the vowels aloud - Aaaaaa, Eeeeeeeeee, Iiiiiiiiiii, Ooooooooooo, Uuuuuuuuuuu, and sometimes Yyyyyyyyyyyyyy - and to encourage her to say them.

After a few times, she lessened her resistance. Our thought was that she understood that when the vowels ended, the brushing would end, giving her a cue as to how long the session would last and how close it was to ending. It also gave her something to do. Not long after she started saying the vowel sounds, too, which further distracted her and made brushing easier for everyone involved.

Another thing to try is to have another parent brush his or her teeth at the same time. Let your son see that brushing teeth is something his parents do, as well. Children are naturally interested in imitating the behaviors of their parents.

If none of the above work, try compromising by letting your son brush his own teeth himself after you brush them. (This works particularly well if he's at that stage where he wants to do everything himself.) In short, you explain that you will brush his teeth - Aaaaaa, Eeeeeeeeee, Iiiiiiiiiii, Ooooooooooo, Uuuuuuuuuuu, and sometimes Yyyyyyyyyyyyyy - and afterwards he can hold the brush and brush them himself.

Good luck!
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Sometimes some strange trick will work. Our son started to accept his teeth being brushed when he got to hold a hand mirror and watch it from there. He sometimes still asks for the mirror though he's mostly forgotten about it, but lets brush her teeth normally.
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I'd go crazy too having someone brush my teeth. ;) I can only recommend to relax. Brush yours and let him find his way to do it. It will come if you can show him that you are convinced that he is capable of doing it properly. And as long as it does not, remember that it is your fear that lets him very little room to decide about his body. Don't force him into resignation. Let him explore and let him know it's his realm. And let him experience unbrushed tooth, too. This is where we take our motivation to brush ours! And it's not really that dangerous as we tend to think to go to bed without having your tooth brushed properly. The harm that can be done to the relationship between you and your child by forcing it is much worse than some potential hole in a tooth. Just imagine the respect he will experience when you ask him if he wants help and you would accept his no.

The other day on a familylab talk there was a mother telling about the big fights she has with her daughter because the daughter doesn't want to brush her teeth. The mother was asking for advice. Mathias Voelchert from familylab asked her if she could try to not care about her teeth for the next 14 days. It wouldn't be the end for her teeth but could be a beautiful 2 weeks for their relationship. :)
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