Thursday, 1 September 2011

A tale of toddler toothbrushing

I felt bad that I had resorted to threats.  ‘You need to brush your teeth, or they will fall out’. He couldn’t have cared less.  Mornings and bedtimes became a battle ground for toothbrushing, me chasing him about with a toothbrush. Once captured, at best, he would suck the toothpaste from it and maybe I’d see one swipe of the front teeth with the brush, if I was lucky.  'Can Mummy help?' 'Can Mummy do it?' Forget it, the jaw was on lockdown. Cue, tears, tantrum.

It's odd the things that we mothers get stressed about, but the toothbrushing thing was really getting to me. Another mark chalked up on the board of  ‘Things Mummy must do better.’

Teeth.  I have a thing about them. Never dated a man unless he had lovely, pearly whites.  I visit the dentist more regularly than most. Dental hygienists are my friends.  I have been known to get tooth envy.  I do love a nice white, smile.  Maybe it’s a slight obsession, but the thought of my boy having a mouthful of rotting teeth. No way.

Parenting books will tell you that a child cannot brush their own teeth properly until the age of 6.  This is because they don’t have the hand dexterity to manoeuvre the brush about the mouth. So, whilst it’s good for them to have a go, Mummy or Daddy also need to step in and get brushing too.  And therein lay the challenge, how to get Mummy brushing?

On a night out with the Mummy friends, I explained my predicament, hoping they would be able to offer some sage words of wisdom and advice.

Mummy no 1: (Advocate of the school of hardnosed parenting) advised ‘Headlock’.  Really?  Brute force wasn’t something I was ready to consider.

Mummy no 2 (Laid back, gentle) was literally of the view - don’t sweat the small stuff. ‘He’ll get another set anyway; this is just the dummy run.  It’s when he gets his big teeth you need to take it seriously’.  Hmmm. No, I didn’t fancy my chances of trying to start a lifetime of toothbrushing when the little man hits age 5 or 6, probably by then, with a will of reinforced iron.

Mummy no 3 had a cunning plan.  ‘ You need to play the ‘What have you eaten today game.’ That was a new one on me. ‘Talk to him about what he has eaten that day, then get him to open his mouth and say;  ‘Oh, my goodness, I can see a little bit of mushroom, and there’s some rice, and hold on.. there’s some biscuit in that tooth over there.  Then you just brush it away.’  She swore it worked.  It sounded pretty simplistic, I was doubtful that it would work on Little Pip, but I was willing to give it a try.

The next day, I set about employing the tactic.  To my absolute amazement it appeared to be working.  Mouth wide open, Mummy brushing away, listing various items that had been eaten during the day.  Then..

‘Mummy…can you get the slug?’
‘There’s a slug in there?’
‘Did you eat a slug today?’
‘Yes, Mummy’

There are a lot of slugs in our garden, but surely not.  I didn’t see him eat a slug.

Day 2.  Same process, at bedtime, Mummy happily brushing and feeling rather smug, thinking, big tick for me - I’ve got this cracked now.  Dah de da, ‘let me just get that little piece of sweetcorn, there we go…’

‘Mummy…can you get the snail?’
‘A snail?  Is there a snail in your mouth?’
‘Yes, Mummy’
‘Tell Mummy, did you really eat a snail today?’
‘Yes, Mummy’

Slugs and snails, but no puppydogs tails - yet.  Maybe it really is what little boys are made of.   But at least now this one has got clean teeth!


  1. battery operated toothbrushes are also a good idea, especially a themed one to encourage the practice of getting it right