Probably one of the biggest headaches reported by many parents is the issue of toothbrushing. As many professional nanny candidates discover at interview, the subject of toothcare can created some embarrassed apologies from parents who admit they’ve never got to grips with the all important twice a day routine.
Toddler teeth – the importance of hygiene
Cavity rates are rising in the UK because of changes in diet. Our children consume more food between meals, giving bacteria more time to attack tooth structure and the snacks they are given such as fruit juice, can be high in sugar, leading to bacterial multiplication.
To the surprise of many parents, guidelines suggest that adults help with tooth brushing until at least the age of six. This is because children lack two key skills – manual dexterity (for example they will brush the left hand side of the mouth if they are right handed but struggle to turn the brush to reach the teeth on the right hand side) and an understanding of thoroughness (to a young child brushing just the front teeth is the same as brushing all the teeth).
Finding the right way to brush a toddler’s teeth
Forget standing in front of the sink like they show in adverts – a stunning 80% of parents of young children admit that they have failed to get their child to brush their teeth this way. Instead try one of the two following approaches.
- Sit down on a chair with your child on the floor in front of you. Get her to lead her head back into your lap and angle the toothbrush so that it’s 45 degrees to her gum line. To make it fun, play a CD (not a DVD which will make them straighten their head to watch) of favourite songs or a story tape.
- Brush teeth in the bath. As soon as your child is happily settled in the water, get out the toothbrush and set to work. A professional nanny on our list has found that for really reluctant brushers, it can work to keep all the bath toys out of the water until the child accepts the toothbrushing. She divides the mouth into six: front teeth outside surfaces, front teeth inside surfaces, back teeth outside surfaces, back teeth inside surfaces, top teeth bottom surfaces, bottom teeth top surfaces and when each area has been brushed she places the chosen toy on the edge of the bath. When all teeth have been brushed she pushed the toys into the bath which delights her charge and gives her a chance to really focus on good dental hygiene.
Work with your child to get teeth brushed
Some children adore electric toothbrushes, others are terrified by the buzzing. Some relish the taste of minty toothpaste whilst others find mint has a strong, almost ‘burning’ flavour. In other words, your child may have genuine difficulties with the routine you are trying to establish. Offer a choice of toothbrushes and toothpastes every day, perhaps three different brushes and a similar number of pastes – this moves a toddler from ‘having’ to accept no choice to engaging with their own preferences and can often remove the tantrum element of toothbrushing.