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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

This is such a normal issue - I had it with my now 3 year old, and still have it with my 19 month old. For my 3 year old what I found worked really well was telling him his favorite story while I brushed his teeth. I started that when he was almost 2, it was 3 Little Pigs. When he would close his mouth, or make it difficult to brush his teeth I would stop telling the story until I could brush again. I timed it for 2 minutes (1 minute on top and 1 on the bottom). For my 19 month old I sing songs - usually if your happy and you know it, itsy bitsy spider, ABC's, and twinkle twinkle. She likes to do the hand movements while I brush, and I again stop if she makes it so I can't brush them. When they still scream I figure that at least it makes their teeth accessible. I also always brush their teeth while they lay down - makes it much easier for me and much harder for them to get away from the toothbrush.

i recommend finding a distraction technique that your daughter will like. my son loves to play with water. he stands on the stool at the sink and i run a tiny stream of water. he plays with it, filling and pouring two cups while i brush his teeth. sometimes he will help with the brushing or play with his extra brushes (we have three for the times we need them- two for his hands and one for mama) but most times he wants to play in the water. we also sing songs about brushing teeth. some days it works better than others, but he is only allowed to play at the sink if we brush his teeth, altho i usually let him play a little while afterward. usually i use that time to brush my teeth and talk about how good brushing your teeth is.
i would ask the dentist/hygenists about tips for sensative gums- my son's haven't ever bled and i get in there pretty good sometimes. it seems like hers could be hurting her.
good luck

You've probably already gotten a lot of great advice. i found letting my little one use the toothbrush initially on her own teeth and then mommy "helps out" with the final brush. Additionally, I found distraction is great. My husband would play "hide and seek" behind me while I brushed her teeth. The last thing that we found works great is seeing a song to her, for us it's the ABC song and when the song is done she knows the brushing is too. I think letting her watch you brush her teeth is also really useful. Good luck and keep it up even if she continues to cry.

it's not uncommon at all. my daughter did it and we just had to struggle through it. i think it's just a power struggle. as for the bleeding, flossing might help with that (when you can get in there!). you can get the kids dental flossers that she could work on doing herself and also will prevent your fingers from being bitten (http://www.amazon.com/Plackers-Kids-1st-Flossers-Pack/dp/...)

we brush our kids teeth every night but they still get cavities. we got the cavity genes too.

so just keep powering through. it really stinks but it will end (tho i can't remember at what age).

Teeth brushing is just one of those HUGE obstacles daily/nightly of child developement isnt it! And it can be SO frustrating. One thing I want to add is it always helped my son when I told him/talked about what we were going to do and gave him options. "After we eat breakfast we are going to brush our teeth." Then talk about it on the way to do it. Then I'd ask "Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want Mommy to do it?" This gives him options and he responds really well to it. I know your daughter is younger so asking her that may not work but telling her what your doing and talking through the steps will remind her and help her know what to expect.
Also, you can always call a denist office and talk to someone there, they may tell you its normal or let you know if they think you should bring her in or not. If anything it will give you piece of mind!
Definitely give her a brush she can explore herself. That way it becomes familiar, not some weird object that gets crammed into her mouth every night. Try to make it a fun thing, if she's teething you may just want to back off for a little because its too painful. Just make sure shes not getting too much sugary foods during this time.

Love the electric tooth brushes too! Keep workin at it Momma! It's tough! She'll except it with consistancy sooner then later and it will become a much easier process. I know your pain!

I would cease the toothbrushes and only use a luke warm wash cloth for now..no toothpaste..not even children's variety yet. You are apparently hurting her if her gums are bleeding..no wonder she screams. No offense meant but when the baby is screaming and there is blood from her mouth after brushing..then you need to stop doing what you are doing and think of another way..which is why you asked here. We started brushing our kids at two..and we allowed them to do it to a certain extent. We did not use toothpaste because swallowing it is quite bad for them. You need to consider your child's age in this..when teething the gums are already tender and she doesn't have all her teeth yet if she's under two. Yes, prone to cavities is one thing..but often cavities are caused by the food we eat and then not brushing..at four he should have been brushing for a couple of years. Most dentists don't need to see kids until they are three and can hold their mouth open when told too. (usually right before preschool). If you wipe her mouth gently along the gums with a fairly soft warm wash cloth twice a day should be fine...and simply do it when she's busy doing something with you...if you wrap your finger in the washcloth it will not hurt too much if she bites..and if she does..remove your finger and say "No, don't bite...open.." and show her your open mouth. Maybe even have two clothes so you can show her what you are doing. If it hurts her..and I'd say from what you wrote that it does..time to look at materials..strength of the scrubbing and also..whether you are making her open her mouth so far that it hurts. Please..don't force this on her anymore. It brought tears to my eyes as proper hygiene is important..but at a year and a half old the gums bleeding and you refusing to stop sounds downright cruel.

My daughter screamed and fought about brushing teeth forever. We started about when she was 15 mo, and she is 3 years old now. She still doesn't want to do it. She used to scream all the time too. I guess its just persistence. I used to feel the same way you do now, though. It was so frustrating. It does get easier! Hang in there. You are probably not hurting her! You are doing the best for her.

You might take her to the dentist to rule out any gum issues (ie: the bleeding with light brushing). Maybe it does hurt her. I have a friend how has the most sensitive gums and has had them all her life.
Brushing teeth is so hard. Most kids hate it and fight it. But it has to be one of those things that are set in stone that you do every day. I know that it isn't good to reward kids for doing expected things, but it might work. Maybe a sticker chart and once she fills a whole week, you can give her a special thing like a new book or a small trinket thing or special trip the the park.Nothing that cost you too much money. It might get the ball rolling and eventually it will just be part of the routine and you can do away with the reward system.
You have gotten some good suggestions. I would let her have a brush and you have a brush and do it together. Then she feels she has some control. We got our daughter a spin pro electric toothbrush and she loves it.

Have you tried to let her brush her teeth herself? Ususally at this age they are so far apart that the brush can easily get between them to get all of the surfaces clean. Oh and see if you can timer to make sure she is keeping that toothbrush in her mouth long enough to do some good. You could also give her a dry toothbrush to chew on during the day so enusre she is not allowing plaque to start to build. One thing that will really help prevent cavities when she gets older is having her use the Act Flouride Rinse, my son went from having 10 cavities one year to none in the next two because of using that and my daughter has not had a cavity.

Same here - and we just tough it out. When I talked to my dentist about it he said just to get through it - he actually mentioned that if she's screaming outright it should be easier, because she will open her mouth so I can brush...:)
As for bleeding gums: I have has that happen too and it is almost always a matter of brushing to hard/using to much pressure. Even if you "swear" you are not brushing hard, when your child is screaming and struggling we automatically get a tighter grip on the brush so it doesn't go flying. So you REALLY have to make sure you brush gently, ideally you just merely have the brush lying in your hand without gripping it.

Now as for the fighting. We have now come to a point where 6 out of 10 times brushing goes fine if we either watch TV while doing it or my hubby distracts her. It also helps if she can hold on to her own brush while I brush her teeth with a second brush and sometimes she will try to brush my teeth in return.

It is easiest to brush if you have her recline in your lap with her head pointing towards you (if you are not already doing it this way).
Some kids can be swayed with electric toothbrushes, but my daughter is afraid of loud noises so that's a no go for us - you may want to give it a try.
At this age it's mainly a control issue so she will likely grow out of it when she has more understanding of why it is important that you help her.
Good luck!

Ok. It's my opinion that all kids just hate having their teeth brushed at first. At least, both of my kids did. After a while, though, they just accepted that it was part of the routine and it was easier to get through. Try making a game out of it (tell her you have to brush off the sugar bugs) or tell her after the count of ten you'll be all done. Then she can focus on the counting. It does get better, it just takes a little while.

My children have both done the same thing. I started them early to get them used to brushing but once they hit that age we had serious struggles. At one point I actually had to sit on top of my flailing son in order to get his teeth brushed and I used a bite blocker on both my son and daughter. Even with these measures my son has multiple cavities at 5 and my daughter has soft enamel on a few teeth at 3. Try using different tactics to get the job done i.e. let her brush YOUR teeth, make sure she can see herself in a mirror, use the Ah and EE sounds to open up her mouth, try a spin brush, let her brush after you are done ( I’ve tried ALL of these with short term success each time) but whether these work or not GET HER TEETH BRUSHED!!! She will eventually come around, both mine have. And once again I’m starting early with my baby girl using a toothbrush at 10 months…here’s hoping!! Good Luck Mama

She is probably teething and anything that touches her swollen gums hurts terribly. I would try to find the softest brush you can and stay only on her teeth.

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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