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  1. #1

    Can teeth cleaning and gentle parenting go hand in hand - help needed!

    I am having real difficulties with cleaning my 13 month old's 6 teeth (and counting...). In all other areas of parenting we have a gentle parenting style and I enjoy adapting around him and respecting his needs and personality. But when it comes to cleaning his teeth he: screams, crys, yells, clamps his mouth shut and seems generally distressed. I continue because, obviously, I want to clean his teeth properly and this is one of my duties as a parent. But it is so upsetting for him and the whole experience seems so different to everything else we do. If anyone who has been there before can give me any tips or ideas on making the whole teeth cleaning experience more relaxing for him I would be very grateful. I am also concerned that I am creating an ongoing issue and he will always dislike having his teeth cleaned. Thank you for reading!

  2. #2
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    I personally didn't brush my children's teeth until they were older. To get them started I gave them a tooth brush at around 12 months to use while I was brushing my teeth. They would suck on them and chew them (so we went through a few) - but they love to imitate adults so the transition was easy. If they put it in their mouth - I would gently try a few brushing movements. Another idea a mother told me is to try a very short song to make it fun while brushing and when the song is finished so is the brushing.
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  3. #3
    I didn't clean my children's teeth until they were older. Having them rinse with water or drink water can help dilute sugars that may be left on the teeth from milk, juice, etc. I like Jane's suggestion of giving them their own toothbrush to "play" with while Mum brushes her teeth. You make sure it's related only to tooth brushing time (not a thing to play with when running around the house) and make it a special treat. I also like Jane's suggestion of singing a short song so he knows it will be over at the end of the song.

    The "song" idea reminded me of what the dentist does when my children go for their first visit which is at 4 years of age (if I see something that concerns me before the age of 4, I take them in earlier, and that only happened once). I tell the child that the dentist is going to count their teeth. If you can talk to the dentist ahead of time or observe him with a young child's first visit, you can "prompt" him to actually count the teeth out loud while he's looking at them.

    Another fun way that one dental hygienist cleaned was by calling each instrument a fun name. There was "Mr. Tickle" which was the soft rubber "cup" that is used to clean the teeth, and I'm not sure what the others were, but possibly Mr. Air and Mr. Water. Before using the air, the Hygienist would put the air on the child's hand so they would know what it was going to feel like. I also allowed my children to watch me when I was having my teeth cleaned so they wouldn't be scared. And if I had more than one child, I'd allow the younger child to watch the older child. I just wanted them to be very relaxed with the whole thing.

    Going to the dentist is not a scary thing if they've never heard another child cry at the dentist. It can be a fun adventure and having teeth cleaned doesn't hurt at all. Our Dentists would just "count" the teeth for the first visit which made the visit very short and was a very positive experience for each child.

  4. #4
    To be honest, I don't really brush my children's teeth until they are older either. I like the song idea. There are some children's toothbrushes that will actually play a song for one minute, my oldest daughter used to have one.

    Good luck is the only other thing I can say. For me, the difficult thing that doesn't really align with my parenting is using the nasal aspirator to clean out my toddler's nose. He goes insane, same thing with the baby, though she has only had one cold. It makes me feel horrible =(. SO I know where you are coming from.

  5. #5
    Thank you so much for your encouragement ladies. I am going to take your advice and adopt a more relaxed, fun approach to teeth cleaning as from tonight. I think I can muster up a song too.....! Your support has really helped, thanks again

  6. #6
    I thought I would give you a teeth cleaning update: it's good news! We have had a couple of nights of the little man happily chewing on a toothbrush. Happy baby=happy mummy!

  7. #7
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    That is great news that you had a much better teeth cleaning experience.
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  8. #8
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    Talking Gentle Teeth Cleaning

    I am a firm believer that children need to learn to brush their teeth, and that sooner is better, but like you ljmarsden I use gentle parenting in all facets of our life. My youngest is one year old and, like her big sister, I bought her a toothbrush at around six months. Sitting in the supermarket trolley I gave her a choice of three colours of the broad, easy grip style, and we bought the one she picked.

    It sat waiting a long time for my late teether’s first teeth. But for those three months I sat my daughter on my hip while I brushed my teeth. She thought it was hilarious – an absolute riot – and soon, hell would be raised if she DIDN’T get to watch. Of course the fact that I was humming her favourite nursery rhymes and finger plays while I brushed, might have something to do with the hilarity!

    Once her first two teeth appeared (together!) when she was nine months, I gave her her toothbrush to hold while I brush my own teeth. At first she rejected it outright but over time the brush went in the mouth, and got chewed and sucked on.

    Over about the last month she has started shoving the brush back at me and demanding something else. It took the whole of the first week (two brushings a day) for me to realise she wanted me to brush her teeth. So now we brush the bottom two, but the top is still off limits. I wasn’t shocked when, two weeks ago, two new teeth appeared there – probably the reason her mouth was clamped shut at even the hint of a brush going near that top gum.

    It has been a slow process but at no point has it been forced or unenjoyable, in fact it has been good fun. I firmly believe in my baby learning the value of dental care… as well as the value of being allowed to develop these skills in her own time without pressure.
    Last edited by Mumof2IVFmiracles; 14th February 2012 at 10:52 PM.

  9. #9
    Dear Mumof2IVFmiracles,

    Thank you very much for your reply. It's good to hear your positive experience with introducing your child to teeth cleaning in a fun way. I'm going to try cleaning my teeth with my baby on my hip tonight. It's certainly been getting easier as I've tried to make it more of a game for him. Here's hoping that he soon loves it so much he starts asking for the toothbrush himself!

  10. #10
    I am so glad to hear things are going better with this for you. I also found letting my little ones play with a toothbrush helped them become more interested in brushing their teeth. Sometimes, they sit and ask to brush their teeth now because they enjoy it so much. We also let them get cute toothbrushes that they pick out. Hopefully, your little one will be asking for the toothbrush himself soon.

  11. #11
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    Dear ljmarsden

    How is the tooth cleaning going? I was thinking of you tonight when cleaning my seven year old's teeth (yes you did read that right).

    Recently she had to have her front teeth removed by a dentist, as her adult teeth had begun descending while her milk teeth were loose but not yet gone. With the gum tightening up around them again it was all a bit of a mess that was swiftly solved by the dentist at our local community health centre.

    At the same time the dentist did a tooth cleaning, as my daughter had developed some plaque as a result of inadequate brushing (and refusing to let anyone help her). The dentist drove home so effectively, the importance of an adult assisting with teeth cleaning until age nine, that my daughter has now developed what is close to paranoia about tooth brushing. She refuses to brush her own teeth, asking for help instead.

    It is a weird irony - after working so hard to ensure my one year old will LET me help her, I have a seven year who won't TRY to brush her own teeth. Mind you I am also wondering if some of her behaviour can't be attributed to a desire to receive some of the attention her sister receives.

    So as I ponder a tooth brushing routine reminiscent of a Mr Men Book, I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience of tooth-brushing-regression?!
    Last edited by Mumof2IVFmiracles; 14th February 2012 at 10:55 PM.
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  12. #12
    Dear Mumof2IVFmiracles,

    Thanks - the teeth cleaning seems to have turned a corner and the little lad is happier with the whole process. I've also found some cartoons of animals having their teeth cleaned which he finds very funny!

    How interesting - up to 9 years old that a parent should help: I guess I have a lot more teeth cleaning to help with then! Hope your little girl was ok with her trip to the dentist.

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