What to Do When Your Child Absolutely Refuses Basic Dental Care

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Basic dental care is one of the first hygiene skills that children learn in their early lives. Some children pick up the skill quite easily and without much prodding, but some children make toothbrushing a daily nightmare for themselves and their parents.

Before we talk about how to get your child to take care of their teeth properly, let’s find out why they refuse to do so in the first place.

Why does your child refuse to do basic dental care?

Any pediatric dentist will tell you that the rebellious act of resisting a toothbrush is normal at some point in a child’s life. For toddlers, it is their way of telling you that it is their mouth, which is an instinct that stems from their need for autonomy. Moreover, staying still to brush their teeth is something that all toddlers are not inherently good at, and so they won’t like it.

For older kids, refusing to brush their teeth can root from the painful or unusual sensations while toothbrushing. This is especially true if your child has sensitive gums, in which case, brushing their teeth can be painful and uncomfortable. On the other hand, your child might be refusing to brush their teeth simply because they hate the taste of their toothpaste.

How to get your child to brush their teeth

As a parent, it can be frustrating when your child refuses to do something that will benefit them in the long run. Don’t worry. If your child is making toothbrushing a perpetual battle between the two of you, here are some strategies that might help:

1. Understand the problem

Why is your child refusing to brush their teeth in the first place? If your child is old enough to articulate their thoughts, it’s better if you ask them outright. Why do they hate toothbrushing? Does it hurt when they brush their teeth? Do they hate the taste of toothpaste or dental floss? Are they afraid of swallowing the toothpaste?

Sit down with your child and talk about their feelings instead of fighting in the bathroom as always. In this way, you can get to the bottom of the issue and address it together with as minimal frustration as possible.

2. Brush your teeth together

Children copy what their parents do. Thus, brushing your teeth at the same time can help them form the habit and show them that brushing their teeth is something that everybody must do. When your kid is just starting to brush their teeth by themselves, showing them how to brush through example is also a great way to teach them how to do it properly.

3. Let them take the reins

Show your child how to brush their teeth by brushing it for them. Then, let them have full control next time. This strategy will help them get used to the feeling of toothbrushing while promoting independence, which they will eventually need when it comes to hygiene.

4. Assume the proper position

When brushing your child’s teeth, stand behind them and hold their chin or shoulder firmly. Doing this will give your child a sense of security, and the pressure of your touch will help calm them while they experience the sensations of brushing. When they are ready to brush their teeth on their own, you can offer to hold their shoulders down for comfort if they still need it.

5. Make it a routine

Brushing your child’s teeth at the same time every day can help make it easier for them to adapt to it. When it is a part of their routine, they already know what to expect and mentally prepare themselves for it.

6. Replace their dental hygiene tools

If your child says that it hurts when they brush their teeth, replace their toothbrush with even softer bristles. On the other hand, if they don’t like the taste of their toothpaste, allow them to choose on their own the next time you go to the store. It’s better to give them what they are more comfortable with instead of forcing them to use what they already have.

As a parent, there are a few things more frustrating than a child refusing to brush their teeth. But just like with many other behaviors that children have, there is usually an underlying reason for it.

If you’re having trouble trying to get your child to take care of their teeth, use these strategies to find out the root cause and address it without putting your child off toothbrushing even more.

Meta title: Tantrums Over Toothbrushing? Here’s What To Do

Meta description: Is your child making basic dental care an absolute nightmare for both of you? Here’s what you can do.


David Rosenberg: A seasoned political journalist, David's blog posts provide insightful commentary on national politics and policy. His extensive knowledge and unbiased reporting make him a valuable contributor to any news outlet.