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Oral Health Buzz

My Child Refuses to Brush and Floss!

Rachael Moshman

Brushing and flossing are crucial for good oral health, but they are not that exciting. Some children are very resistant to stopping their play or television time to brush and floss. Are you tired of the tantrums, tears and defiance about tooth care? Here are some ways to put an end to the fight.

Lead by Example

Children who see their parents brushing and flossing are more likely to do it themselves. Make it a family affair by doing it together. Play a game of follow-the-leader by having them repeat your actions: For example, brush five strokes, and then clap your hands.

Bring in the Expert

Let the dentist and dental hygienist know that you are experiencing a bit of a struggle at home. They can explain to your child why proper care is important and what can happen if the child does not take care of his teeth and gums.

Enlist a Fun Role Model

If seeing you take care of your teeth and hearing warnings from the dentist is not enough to convince your child to brush and floss, find someone whom your child thinks is really cool to share the message. Search the library for storybooks on dental care that feature your child's favorite characters, such as Berenstain Bears, Sponge Bob or Dora the Explorer. Encouragement from an older sibling, cousin, babysitter or teacher whom they admire might also make an impact.

Offer an Incentive

There is nothing wrong with resorting to a bribe, but keep the reward realistic, and stick to the terms. Offer a sticker in return for compliance, or have a rule that there will be no television until teeth have been brushed and flossed.

Call upon the Tooth Fairy

Sometimes it is necessary to call in the big boss — the Tooth Fairy herself. There are two ways to get the message across using this tactic:

1. The next time your child has a tooth fall out, skip the payment. Instead, leave a note from the Tooth Fairy stating, "I regret to inform you that your teeth were not in the condition that I require; therefore, no payment can be made at this time. I suggest that you brush and floss daily for better results at my next visit." If this seems too harsh, you can leave half of the customary amount of money along with a warning note this time.

2. Stick a note on the bathroom mirror from the Tooth Fairy informing your child that she has been doing routine inspections of teeth in the night while children are sleeping in order to monitor the teeth that she will collect. Explain that your child's teeth did not pass inspection and that, if the child wants her to collect them when they fall out, the child needs to start taking better care of them immediately.

The key is to figure out what motivates your child and then to use it to make brushing and flossing less of an ordeal for everyone and more fun. You'll all feel better — and your child's teeth will be healthier, too!

Learn more about helping kids brush and floss in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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