22 answers

16 Month Old SCREAMS When I Brush Her Teeth

I'm trying to be a good mama and brush my little ones teeth, but it is just an awful experience every night. I have finger toothbrushes, oral-b toddler toothbrushes, teeth wipes, and 3 different kinds of toothpaste, no matter what I do, she SCREAMS like she's being tortured every time I brush her teeth. Occasionally her gums will even bleed, and I swear I'm not brushing hard. Has anyone experienced this? What do I do? I usually use the oral-b toothbrush, because she will bite me if I put my finger in her mouth. I hate fighting with her, but I also don't want her to get cavities. Her dad had 4 cavities at the age of 4, so she could definitely be genetically prone to getting them. Help.

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I had to tell my daughter that we have to clean out the yucky sugar bugs and it took about a week but she began to cooperate. You just cant let her see that her resisting has an impact on you, she will get better. You are doing the right thing and thats all there is to it.

2 moms found this helpful

my daughter screams, too. My husband has taught her to say 'aaaahhhhh'. This not only keeps down the screaming, but also makes her open her mouth widely so that we can see what we're going in there.

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I had to tell my daughter that we have to clean out the yucky sugar bugs and it took about a week but she began to cooperate. You just cant let her see that her resisting has an impact on you, she will get better. You are doing the right thing and thats all there is to it.

2 moms found this helpful

I battled this with my son, now 3 1/2m and he finally in the lsat 3-4 months asks to brush and enjoys it. I can just tell you pick a quick routine and stick to it, do it over and over and over and eventually it will become routine. My son, once old enough to verbalize, would tell me it hurt his new teeth, so teething probably makes it unbarable for them. He was also scared when I told him there were sugar bugs in there. He would freak out and cry that there were bugs in his mouth, so I stuck to whatever he had just eaten and talked about that being in there. I also tried a power toothbrush for a while and that helped some. At least it was moving while he had it in his mouth. So ya, I will stop blabbing and good luck! remember always let them have a turn and then you finish! :)

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This sounds to me like your little one might have some teeth under those gums. Children can experience teething pain anywhere from the very beginning--when the teeth are coming up through the bone-- to the end, when they are evident and emerging. Our son was a tough teether and had very, very swollen gums. Our pediatrician reasssured us that it's normal for some kids to actually have the gums over the developing tooth bleed when touched/brushed, and assured us that if we didn't brush his teeth for a time, it was no big deal. This was nice to hear as it felt like he was teething *forever*--he now has all his teeth in and tolerates brushing just fine, other than being a little impatient with the process. We do the bottom ones in the a.m. and the tops at night and mostly let him bite the toothbrush and suck out the water. Kids get better at it as they develop the motor/cognitive skills to do it themselves, from what I've seen in my work.

If you are concerned about plaque, my suggestion would be to avoid starchy carbs right before bedtime and offer peeled apple chunks instead. My son LOVED these when he was teething. Just make sure she doesn't get too much in her mouth at once (choking hazard), and the enzymes/acids in the apple will deter plaque from spreading.

While we like to explain the "why" of self-care to kids, my experience has been that germs, etc. are pretty abstract until kids are around 3 or so. Plus, kids have no real concept of prevention (the idea that we're brushing to prevent future cavities) until they are older. I like the simple explanation of getting the food off the teeth. But at this age,(16 mo.) no explanation will really sink in. You can fill her in on the 'why's' when she's a bit older. Too bad there aren't any cute kids books on the subject. Making it a part of your routines will help, though. And having more than one toothbrush to choose from ("do you want the blue one or the yellow one") gives children a chance to make a choice around an activity that they don't really get to make a choice about. This can move the process along somewhat. Depending on the child, some like a "live" toothbrush..."Hi, I'm Mr. Toothbrush and I want to play in your mouth!" or having kids make vowel sounds to bring the mouth into a more cooperative shape--EEE's and AHHH's work well. We develop these tricks on the fly, according to what each child needs to stay engaged.

Isn't it great that they get a second set later on? Relax, and save brushing for when her mouth is feeling better.

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Was your husband a C-section baby? For some reason, people born via C-Section have shown to be more cavity prone. Theories out there think it may have to do with a bacteria from the birth canal that somehow helps with developing stronger tooth enamel?? I don't know exactly what it is, but my brothers and I were all C-section babies, and despite the amazing dental hygiene we grew up with, all had cavities.

okay, back to your baby. While I totally commend what you are doing and trying to instill in her-- perhaps you need to back off just a little. Regardless of her physical reactions, mentally, it's going to become a power struggle. That could have long-term ramifications about her attitude toward teeth brushing more than not doing it properly.

Have you allowed her to "brush" her own teeth? She's definitely got more teeth that need to come through, so the bleeding could be from that. Allowing her to examine the toothbrush, help put the toothpaste on it, etc., might help her feel less freaked out by the experience.

My oldest daughter is 2.5. She LOVES to brush her teeth now, but it took a while to get her there. The thing that helped the absolute best was completely unintentional: She watched ME brush MY teeth one day. That was all she needed, she saw me doing what she was "fighting" and became much more interested. When my mom (dental hygiene fanatic!!) came to visit after baby sister was born, she and my daughter would brush their teeth together. My mom sat on the stepstool in the bathroom to be at face level with her, and told her to do "exactly what I do". She actually brushes SO much better now after a few nights of that.

Now that my daughter is old enough to understand what "going to the Dentist" is, we sometimes play dentist when brushing our teeth. This is my ploy to sneak in and get a few good nights of brushing each week. I tell her "I'm the dentist, let me see those teeth" and then will say things like, "oh my goodness, look at this sneaky tooth--he needs me to really clean him up!" and then I'll just brush away. I even drape the towel over her neck/shoulders like at the dentist office.

Make it fun, keep it light, get a few board books from the library about teeth/brushing/dentists, MODEL for her, let her feel more "in control". If you're genuinely concerned about the gums, take her to a pediatric dentist.

We took our daughter for her first "dentist visit" when she had just turned two, and I expressed concerns about not being good at "really brushing"... the hygienist said that really, brushing counts the most once they get those 2 year molars in, those are the more cavity prone ones. Of course she also said to avoid candy and juice!

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Is the only time she is fussy about her teeth is when they are being brushed? The only other thing I can think of, aside from just needing lots of patience and reapproaching as you are currently doing, is that some people genetically do not have a sufficient enamel layer on their teeth. I was talking with a mom at the dentist who had a son where every single tooth that came in he had to have capped because they were super sensitive due to a genetic condition where he didn't have any enamel on his teeth. He would scream like he was being tortured any time he got his teeth brushed when a new tooth came in until they could get it capped.

As long as the dentist doesn't see any physical reason for the outbursts it is probably just an approach thing. I know my daughter hated it when I brushed her teeth, but I also made it very clear that it wasn't an optional thing, it was something that you just do. It sounds like you are doing what you need to. Does she have any friends or cousins that she could have an opportunity to watch? Maybe seeing other kids she likes/respects doing it would encourage her? Good luck with it!

1 mom found this helpful

If her gums are bleeding you're either brushing too hard or she has gum disease already. At 16 mo she's old enough to see a pedodontist, a kid's dentist. Take her and they will help you take care of her teeth. Most kids like their gums massaged, but if she's cutting new teeth there may be some pain and that's part of her problem. Again, go see a dentist who specializes in kids, young kids. Lots of luck!!

My 28 month old daughter has always done the same thing. I am also very, very gentle. I'd love to hear ideas that other parents have, too. I remember when I taught 2nd grade I shared a cartoon with my class showing cavities and what they do to teeth. A few of the kids really got into brushing their teeth. I wish I remembered the name of this video. I think my daughter would benefit from watching it. I let her brush my teeth after I brush hers, but she still gets really upset. I guess I'll know more as she continues to talk about how she feels and begins to understand that I am helping her. I totally feel your pain about dreading teeth brushing. I love to brush my teeth. Before I became such a busy mom I used to brush my teeth after every meal and snack, but I see that she hates to brush hers.

Look at this. http://kids.aol.com/KOL/2/KOLJrCartoons/Video/pilars-adve...

We started getting our daughter to brush her teeth by letting her push the brush around in her mouth. Once she'd had a chance to do it herself, she was much more willing to let us brush them well.

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