What to Do When Your Child Refuses to Brush Their Teeth

Does your child get angry every time you ask them to brush their teeth? Do you feel like giving up on brushing their teeth because they give you such a hard time? This is a common complaint we hear from parents, so we wanted to provide some proven solutions to address them. Here are some tips for what to do when your child refuses to brush their teeth.

Assess Which Aspect of Teeth Brushing Your Child Dislikes

The best way to find an effective solution for a problem is to understand the underlying cause. What seems like defiant behavior could actually be sensory issues or discomfort. Figure out what your child dislikes about brushing their teeth to pinpoint the appropriate remedy. Here are some potential reasons why your child may not like brushing their teeth:

  • Sensitivity to cold or warm water
  • Pain along the gum line from brushing too hard or with a brush that’s too stiff
  • Disliking the taste of toothpaste
  • Tooth brushing is associated with another activity they dislike, such as bedtime or going to school
  • They feel like they have too many tasks to do at the same time (bathe, brush their teeth, get ready for bed, put away toys, etc.)
  • They have a loose tooth that gets irritated with movement
  • Tooth brushing has been used as a punishment in the past

Each of these scenarios has a corresponding solution. If your child doesn’t like the taste of their toothpaste, let them pick out a different flavor. If they have a sore loose tooth, help them brush gently around that area. You may need to think outside the box, but your pediatric dentist can help you formulate a plan.

Give Your Child the Power of Choice

Children do not get to make many decisions about their own lives. This makes them resistant to basic suggestions because they feel like they have no power or control. You may be able to eliminate resistance from your child by getting them involved with tooth brushing decisions.

Let your child pick out their own toothbrush or toothpaste to make brushing exciting. Let them choose if they want to take a bath first or brush their teeth first. Strategic options could prevent future arguments.

Make Teeth Brushing a Fun Family Experience

Your children feed off your energy. If you make brushing your teeth feel fun and exciting, they’re more inclined to do it. Try brushing your teeth as a family. Use a silly song or dance routine to make the task go by faster. Keep a positive attitude every step of the way to make your child more apt to brush their teeth.

Learn more: Make Teeth Brushing Fun for Kids

Maintain a Consistent Teeth Brushing Routine (Every Single Day)

Children thrive with consistent routines. This applies to bedtimes, meal schedules, schoolwork, and much more. Use the same tooth-brushing routine each night until it feels like muscle memory. Your children will know what to expect, and they will be less likely to test boundaries because of consistency. This may be difficult at first, but repetition will certainly work in your favor.

Do not change the routine for the weekends or school breaks! You may let your child stay up a little later, but the general teeth-brushing routine should remain the same. Otherwise, you will feel like you’re starting over every time you get back to “normal.”

Don’t Give Up! Persistence Is Key

As frustrating as it may be to get your kid to brush their teeth, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Stay patient, diligent, and persistent with the tips listed above.

Also, remember that no two children are the same. What worked for your oldest child may not work for your youngest one. Ask your pediatric dentist what to do based on your child’s unique needs, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy smile in no time.