“Help! My child hates brushing!” – Advanced tips

This is a common concern that brings parents and their kids in for their first dental visit. In fact, it is one of the most commonly asked questions even on online forums. So if you are struggling, you certainly aren’t alone. Despite tips from magazines, you’ve tried bribing, you’ve tried singing but still no luck… Well, here are some other useful (less conventional) tips for your toddler!

Choices matter
Kids at a young age are learning to take control and seek autonomy. Give them an opportunity to take part in making choices. “Do you want the Baby shark toothbrush or the Paw Patrol one?” Bring him to the store to pick his choice of toothpaste. Buy a few. “Do you want to use the bubblegum or the grape toothpaste today?” Ultimately, the choice doesn’t matter, what matters is they made a choice.

“.. but why mom?”
“Why” is probably a child’s most used word (coming in 2nd after the word “No” of course). Kids are naturally curious. You are likely to enjoy better cooperation when kids understand why they have to brush, rather than going “Because I said so”! Never underestimate a child’s ability to comprehend. Explain the “WHY” behind toothbrushing (e.g. we got to get those sugar bugs off the teeth!) and use books to reinforce the idea. Our library has great books for free!

Avoid a mad rush
We all wish we had more hours in the day but chances are, you are in a mad rush ( especially in Singapore!) for the morning school drop off and in a similar frenzy to adhere to an early bedtime. When we are rushed for time, things tend to seem more challenging and naturally tempers start to flare. ( I’m not proud of it, but I’ve been there too, losing my cool even over brushing my child’s teeth! )

Need more time to coax your child to brush? Start your morning/ night routine 5-10 mins earlier as a buffer. If you are starting with a morning routine, and can only get a semi-thorough brushing for 1 min ? Hey! 1 min brushing is better than no brushing at all! Start somewhere and work your way up.

Routines work wonders
Children thrive on routines. Even when they’re tired out from the day’s activities and just not in the mood, knowing what’s going to happen, when and how really helps them to get through the process. Your child needs to brush at least twice a day, morning and at night. A suitable night routine could be a glass of milk, brush and bath followed by storytime and cuddles!

Let’s get silly!
Let’s face it, we love to make our kids laugh. Kids tend to respond positively to fun. (versus yelling!) When my child was younger, I used to make up silly stories or sing his favourite song during brushing. When he got older, we used to do the “food finding game” where we brush to “hunt” for bits of food. Go silly, be animated — “EEEEeeeeww!!! Noodles between your teeth. Wwhhhat! Broccoli hiding here!” “Oops sorry I brushed your nose!” Cue giggles. That bought me the extra minute to brush his teeth.

Use an authority figure to your advantage
All parent know this – we can tell our kids one thing a billion times to no avail. But all a teacher needs to do is say it once and it works like magic! Some children listen better to authority figures. Use that to help you – engage one to be on your team. It can be a teacher or even your dentist! I know I’ve been roped in numerous times. From toothbrushing to thumb sucking even to reducing screen time! It’s always worth a try.

At the end, some kids still struggle no matter what we try (yes, let’s be realistic here!). Thank goodness toothbrushing battles usually fade out after 3 years old. So do not worry. Keep calm and parent on!

Should Kids Use An Electric Toothbrush?

Should my child use an electric toothbrush? When should I start? Does it clean better? Do you (parents) prefer using an electric toothbrush?

In my experience, a manual toothbrush can remove plaque and food debris just as well as an electric toothbrush – it is the brush-er that makes the biggest difference! However, an electric toothbrush can be really effective in a couple of scenarios:

(1) Really stubborn and adherent plaque
Some kids are “high plaque-formers”. Dirt accumulates quickly even after brushing and they tend to have sticky, orange-coloured bacterial deposits all along the neck of the tooth ( at the gumline ). Scrubbing with an electric toothbrush does help clean this stubborn plaque more thoroughly

(2) Learning to brush on their own
I like to guide kids towards independent brushing around 6+ years old. At this age, they may still be mastering the skills of brushing and gaining manual dexterity – an electric brush can be really useful here!

(3) Learning to cope at the dentist

Many kids struggle with hair clippers (sounds and vibrations!) or find loud noises unpleasant (eg. run away when the vacuum comes on). If so, I encourage kids as young as 3 years old (sometimes younger!) to get an electric toothbrush for familiarisation. The daily use of a toothbrush that brushes with vibrations and sounds can get them used to the polishing tools that we use to sparkle up their teeth on the dental chair!

At the end, some parents do have a preference for an electric toothbrush! ME? I’m just happy if kids are having their teeth thoroughly brushed at least twice a day, especially before bed (make sure it’s after the last milk feed / supper!)

Pacifiers – Are they bad for teeth?

Should you use a pacifier? Are pacifiers bad for your child? When does it become a problem? Let’s answer these common questions!

Sucking for comfort
Babies naturally crave comfort and sucking is one of the best ways to calm a fussy baby. However, some babies rely on sucking more than others. One baby may prefer a cuddle while another would soothe instantly when a pacifier is popped in. Nonetheless, some parents steer clear from the pacifier because they are afraid of it becoming a bad habit!

Pacifiers – the How-To guide from a paediatric dentist’s perspective
1. There’s nothing wrong with using a pacifier
Do not feel guilty if you have decided to use a pacifier! I used a pacifier with both my kids. It really helped me regain sanity during the early months where my first would wail for hours in the evening (the dreaded colic!) as it would help him fall asleep. My next child couldn’t care less for it. Find what suits your baby’s needs. The key is not to force it upon your child if he does not want it.

2. Over-usage of a pacifier should be avoided

Use the pacifier only when your baby is fussy or unsettled. Remove the pacifier from the mouth once possible. Having the pacifier in the mouth otherwise may create a greater habitual desire for it to be in the mouth all the time, whether happy or upset — this makes it harder to wean later on.

3. Wean off early – it’s easier for you and baby!
The longer your child is used to having a pacifier, the more he may become accustomed to it. Most babies start to self-wean and look for other ways to self-soothe as they grow older. In my experience, weaning off works easier around 1 years of age. The habit is not strongly established and there’s lots of new things to explore and distract them!

Can pacifiers hurt my child’s smile?
In general, prolonged use of the pacifier past 2 years old and beyond is more likely to affect your child’s smile. The front teeth can stick out and the jaws may be narrowed in from the sucking forces.

To sum it up, pacifiers can be a real life-saver for us parents but if used, be sure not to let the habit linger on for too long! Any questions? Feel free to ask – we may answer it in a subsequent post!

Note: We reserve the right to reword questions for future posts.

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are meant purely for informational and educational purposes only. The website is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or professional care. If you have or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult a doctor or a qualified healthcare provider. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

How to clean your newborn’s tongue

Our little babies are the cutest little things that we just love to cuddle and kiss!! But did you know that babies can get bad breath too?

Babies have multiple milk feeds everyday which can cause a rather intense white coating to develop on their tongue ie. “milk tongue”. Daily routine cleaning helps keeps their breath fresh and very kissable!! ( Scroll to the bottom for the video guide )

How often should I clean my baby’s mouth?
You can do it after every feed or at least twice a day, once in the morning and at night. This also helps your baby get used to a good oral hygiene routine — the earlier you start, the better.

What should I use?
A clean, damp muslin washcloth wrapped around a clean finger will do the trick. Use cooled boiled water to dampen the cloth. Oral wipes sold for infants can be used as an alternative.
Note to parents: Once teeth come in, it is time to graduate to a baby toothbrush

How should I do it?
(a) Position – Support your baby’s head and neck well. You can cradle him in your arms or let him lie across your lap. Find a comfortable position that works for both of you.
(b) Wiping – Rub over the gums gently and a couple of times back and forth over the tongue. It is normal for babies to “gum” down on your finger. Don’t worry – your baby is not trying to bite you! This is a normal infant bite reflex that occurs in the first few months.
(c) Make it fun – Sing a song or talk to your baby – be animated! Babies love it!

Disclaimer: The contents of this website are meant purely for informational and educational purposes only. The website is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or professional care. If you have or suspect you have a health problem, you should consult a doctor or a qualified healthcare provider. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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