How to get your kids to clean their teeth


April 17, 2013 by talkaboutyork

What is it about cleaning teeth that children don’t enjoy? Is it hard work, all that brushing? Is the toothpaste too burny? It can’t be that they don’t like the sensation of having a brush in their mouth, surely? Kids put everything in their mouths, including the toilet brush when they are in that great ‘exploring’ phase between 18 months and two.

But teeth cleaning in our house is an ongoing battle. They either do it, but do it poorly. Don’t do it and lie that they have done it. Or don’t do it and just don’t mention it.

I have two tests, which I perform after teeth cleaning. The breath sniff test, self explanatory really. And the ‘scrape your finger nail over the enamel and see what comes up’ test, the mum equivalent to the military white glove inspection. They tend to fail them most days. Which then causes a bigger argument as they say they have done them and I say ‘Not well enough’. Then they say, ‘Well they’re our teeth.’ So I say, ‘But it’s my job to help you care for your teeth until you’re sensible enough to do it yourselves.’ To which they reply, ‘We are sensible enough now.’ To which I say, ‘As if. Clean them again.’ It’s great. Such fun.

I’ll admit that ever since my two have been old enough to clean their own teeth, I have let them get on with it, rather than doing it for them. This is to make them independent not because I am too busy blogging or on facebook.

But I feel that my teeth cleaning vigilance is going to have to be ramped up. Son 2 likes sweets. A lot. If he doesn’t have sweets, he has been known to eat sugar out of the sugar bowl. I am amazed he doesn’t have diabetes. He is part child, part ant.

About a year ago he complained of toothache. I took him to the dentist. He had a hole in one of his baby teeth. They put a temporary filling in. Since then the filling has come out twice. Every time we go to the dentist I beg the dentist to give my son a telling off about eating too many sweets and not cleaning his teeth. But no, they have obviously all be briefed by the PR team for the Dental Association on how to be nice to patients to get over the universal fear of dentists.

Yesterday he was back at the dentist again, same problem tooth. This time, the dentist explained that he could keep coming back with the same problem or he could pull the tooth out. Son 2 gamely agreed that he could pull the tooth out, even though it wasn’t due to fall out until he was about 11. My little boy (age 7) sat through an injection, managed the numbness, the pressure as the dentist pulled, the cracking noise of the tooth as it came out and the flow of blood that ensued. I was immensely proud.  Even the dentist was impressed at his stoicism.

It was a tough parenting moment though – I wanted to congratulate him on being brave but didn’t really want to heap it on, after all, it was due to his sweetie addiction and poor dental hygiene that it had been needed. There was no need for me to labour that point however. As the injection wore off, he could feel the pain. A lot. A more pathetic, sad little creature the world has never seen.

‘Why did this have to happen? I wish this had never happened,’ he wailed over and over again, despite being dosed up to the eyeballs with calpol and nurofen.

‘Why? Why you ask my boy?’ Cue the talk about cutting down sweets and better brushing and how perhaps mum is right occasionally.

And you know what, it seems to have worked. Both he and his brother scrubbed their teeth last night and again this morning without a single complaint.

It’s easy to see why when you look at the size of the offending tooth that was pulled …..(look away now if you’re squeamish)

So if you have children who don’t like to clean their teeth, steer them this way, show them this picture and explain that that will happen to them if they don’t start brushing. Incidentally, we’re still having a debate about whether the tooth fairy collects teeth that have had to be pulled out because they’re rotten. Quality control and all that…


2 thoughts on “How to get your kids to clean their teeth

  1. Sarah says:

    Wowzas ….ouch…… We had to have two fillings and I thought that would make him brush up his brushing……..still a battle for us too!

  2. judithkingston says:

    I had five fillings in my milk teeth… sadly, I am still quite capable of eating an entire packet of biscuits in half an hour and I never floss although my teeth are all crooked and in desperate need of regular flossing. I think what is so odious about tooth brushing is that it is non-optional. You can’t virtuously decide to do it and conversely you can’t decide to leave it and do it another day if you’re very tired and just want to fall into bed. There is no choice. That choice-less feeling can make even something quite fun like brushing your teeth really, really annoying. And also the fact that right at the beginning, when you’re setting the habit up, you have to do it for your children. That must be quite annoying and possibly something that would turn you against it.

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