A child over the age of six is old enough to care for his or her teeth independently. Earlier than age 6 or 7, most kids do not have the coordination to brush properly. Parents should always take an active role in dental health, even when their child is old enough. Sometimes, a child refuses to brush.

What can parents do when their child refuses to brush?

Here are some tactics a parent can try to encourage regular brushing:

Make it fun

Make tooth brushing an entertaining game. Set a timer and have a two-minute tooth brushing dance party. Play “follow the leader” or “Simon says.” Create a fun routine that can entice your child who refuses to brush. Include correct brushing techniques into your activity.

Offer an appropriate reward

Find a reward system that motivates your unique child. You could reward with a later bedtime or a special story. Or, introduce a sticker chart with a prize awarded after a certain number of stickers.

Visit the toothbrush aisle

Brushing teeth is not optional. You can, however, provide a choice of products. When you visit the store together, let your child choose a fun toothbrush and age-appropriate toothpaste.

Find kid-friendly books or videos

Many books and videos teach children about proper oral care in a positive way. Books and videos can be a useful resource to reinforce what you are teaching.

Set the right example

Remind your child that you always brush at least twice per day. Let them see how you take care of your own teeth and gums. Your son or daughter will see that it is an important and necessary step to take seriously.

These parenting tips may help you handle the situation when your child refuses to brush. Most likely, the phase will eventually pass. However, if you suspect that refusal to brush is due to a tooth sensitivity or sensory issue, talk to your pediatric dentist. The dentist can help you to come up with a plan that fits your child’s needs.