If the thought of brushing your little one's teeth causes an almost immediate increase in your heart rate - read on.
Gum care and teeth brushing are important practices to get into the habit of twice a day from an early age.
How early? From when your little one is just a couple of months old and beyond (before they have teeth)! Start with a damp face washer and lightly wipe their gums morning and night. This starts the pattern of them being used to this happening on a daily basis. Let them have a play with the face washer, chew on it etc.
As they start to pop some teeth and approach toddler hood - use a soft toothbrush. Kiddy safe toothpaste can be used from 18 months + (although we used a teeny amount from about 12m as Hazel loves the taste and is more likely to put the toothbrush in her mouth that way!).
The approach I recommend taking with solids, sleep, toilet training and teeth brushing are all pretty much the same! We want it to be a POSITIVE experience so they actually WANT to do the thing. We cannot make our babies and toddlers eat, sleep, wee/poo in the toilet or brush their teeth. We can only support them to do those things.
𝗛𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝟱 𝘁𝗶𝗽𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗶𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗲𝗲𝘁𝗵 𝗯𝗿𝘂𝘀𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴:
𝗕𝗮𝗯𝘆 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝗯𝗮𝗯𝘆 𝗱𝗼
Our little ones learn by watching us. They also want to copy us! Even if its a 2-3 minute delay, I can almost guarantee if your little one sees you doing something, within a couple of minutes you'll see them starting to copy you. Brush your teeth WITH your baby or toddler morning and night. Even if they don't come to the party, they are watching you and will eventually want to get involved.
𝗗𝗼𝗻'𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗮𝗿𝗲𝗻'𝘁 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆
If your little one is screaming, moving about and kicking/swatting when you're trying to brush their teeth - it may end in one or both of you being injured. The more pressure we put on something - the less likely our little one's are to oblige. We want this to be a positive experience and if that means it takes longer for effective teeth brushing to happen then so be it. If you keep pushing it in the moment, it'll make them less likely to want to participate next time. 𝗜𝗻𝗰𝗼𝗿𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝘆
Let your little one brush your teeth if they are finding that fun. Give your little one the toothbrush to play with in the bath so they can practice chewing on it. Sing a song about tooth brushing. By incorporating play and making tooth brushing an enjoyable experience, they're more likely to come to brush their teeth with positive energy.
𝗣𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲 𝗹𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗴𝗲 & 𝗴𝗲𝘁𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲𝗱
Our little one's receptive language is FAR more advanced than we realise. They understand alot. By 12 months of age and earlier in many cases - our babies are understanding simple instructions 🤯. Use this to your advantage! Use positive language and giving them simple instructions makes teeth brushing sound enjoyable!
"oooooo mummy is going to brush her teeth, shall we brush our teeth together?"
"can you help me wet the toothbrush under the water?!"
"chhh chhh chhh chhh" mummy is brushing her teeth, "chhh chhh chhh chhh" charlie is brushing his teeth
"can you help daddy pop the toothbrush back in the jar?"
"can you brush dolly's teeth?"
Patience is key
Our babies and toddlers won't learn how to brush their teeth and be happy doing it right away. It takes months and years of repetition, role modelling and positive language to set up those habits.
If your little one will let you, you can face them outwards from you sitting in your lap and get them to look up at you whilst you brush their teeth. You can also do it whilst they're sitting facing you or when they're in the bath. Even if its just 10-30 seconds of brushing their teeth for them - they'll build that trust and repetition and slowly understand that you help them brush their teeth. It is important for us to help our little one's brush their teeth until 5 years of age to ensure it's done as effectively as possible.
I would love to hear how you go with these tips and tricks! Let me know if you have any other hacks that get your baby or toddler excited for brushing their teeth!