Brushing and caring for your child's teeth is important from the moment they're born – yes, months before those pearly whites have even emerged!
You can start by getting into the habit of wiping your baby’s gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth during bath time. You don't need to use any toothpaste - just wrap the cloth or gauze around your index finger and rub it gently over the gums. While this will help keep the gums clean, it also has the added advantage of getting your child used to dental care, which can make it easier to brush the teeth properly once the teeth have emerged.
Of course, it’s never too early to start cleaning your child’s teeth with a brush, once the teeth have started coming through. Here are some ideas on how to make the process easier and more fun for everyone involved.
• Have a brushing song: Sing songs, nursery rhymes or make up your own song to sing while brushing their teeth.
• Use an app: Inject some fun with a game such as the Macleans Nurdle Time app, which plays a song with instructions for teeth-cleaning, and also offers rewards for a job well done.
• Adjust brushing times: If brushing before bed isn’t working, try brushing teeth together right after dinner or before a favourite television show.
• Use an electric toothbrush: A battery-powered brush can add novelty to the teeth cleaning experience.
• Play copycat: Children love copying their parents! Start by having matching toothbrushes, then sit on the floor with your child so they can see what you are doing. They can then copy you as you clean your teeth at the same time.
• Mirror mirror on the wall: Let your child stand in front of a mirror while you brush their teeth together. Point to and count each tooth as you brush - that way they can see what is going on.
• Use less paste: It's usually advised that you use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on a child's toothbrush, but some toddlers resist having their teeth brushed because there's too much foam or the paste is stinging their gums. Try using less paste to see if that helps.
• Create a rewards chart: Keep track of and offer a reward every time your child allows you to brush their teeth properly.
Remember that, ideally, you'll spend about two minutes brushing your child's teeth. But this can take some time to build up to, so avoid creating any negative associations or resistance, and you’ll be able to make flossing and brushing more enjoyable.
Also keep in mind that while children can start cleaning their own teeth at around the age of two - when they can hold the brush themselves - you'll need to supervise and help out until they're about eight years old.