4 Year Old Refuses to Brush Teeth at Home

Updated on November 30, 2006
B.G. asks from East Alton, IL
12 answers

I am having problems with my 4 year old brushing his teeth at all at home. When he is at my grandma's every morning he will brush his teeth. My problem is he will be starting daycare and I need some ideas on a good way to get him to brush his teeth.

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answers from Kansas City on

My son brushed his teeth better with the electric tooth brushes and I also set a timer for him.

Plus a trip to the dentist who explained the importance of brushing his teeth.

A big bonus for me was my son lost his first tooth at the age of 4 and I told him the tooth fairy would refuse any dirty teeth, so when he lost his 2nd tooth the tooth fairy left him a special note on how clean his tooth was

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answers from Bloomington on

All of the responses have been good and I definitely recommend the firefly toothbrush that blinks-kids love them! Just another suggestion.......Does he have a favorite animal? If you let him "brush" its teeth first with a little encouragement from you along the way, he may be more willing to brush his own teeth too. Good luck!



answers from Springfield on

My kids are the same way. It helps somewhat to let them pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste at the store, that way you know it isn't the taste they dislike or anything like that. The timers work well also. I did find a toothpaste at the store once that played a tune when the cap was opened. The song lasted about a minute or two (the length of time they need to brush), so it kind of makes it fun for them. I had the unfortunate experience of having a lot of cavities in my back teeth when I was younger, when they still used the silver for fillings. I don't bother telling my kids that they have normal colored fillings now, so that works to scare them a little. Also, try brushing your teeth when they do, and have a "contest" to see who can brush the longest. That way you know he is brushing long enough.



answers from Lawrence on

You say you are soon to be separated... I think this could have something to do with it, seeing how he will brush at grandma's.

Grandma's is stable. It is not changing. It most likely won't be changing any time soon and he knows this.

But if at home is a different story, he may be stressed while at home, knowing what is going to be happening.

If this is the case, I believe things will settle down and he will cooperate more once home-life is more stable again. I think the best thing to do right now is be loving with him and show him that he is loved no matter what happens. It might also help if you brush your teeth when he is to brush his. Seeing you do it, and seeing you want to do it with him, might help him get back into it.



answers from Tulsa on

First, explain to him the importance of brushing and having healthy teeth and gums. When my 3 1/2 yr old doesn't want to brush her teeth I remind her of a book that we read, "the day I became a pirate". In the book it shows that pirates have green teeth and very little at that. I ask her if she wants green teeth like the pirates. If she still refuses, I tell her that if she doesn't brush her teeth that she won't be able to eat her favorite foods like chicken nuggets,pizza, etc. because her teeth and mouth will hurt and her teeth may fall out. I know it's a scare tactic but it works.
Also, teach him how to do it by himself. (Visiting the dentist may help with this.) Let him pick out his own toothpaste and toothbrush. By letting him have choices you incourage his independance and enjoyment of brushing. I suggest a battery powered toothbrush(like Oral-B) because it reduces the time required for brushing and young children don't always have the coordination for brushing properly.
Make it fun and do it with him. Creating a game or song helps. We sing: up and down, up and down, side to side and around and around. We also play the foam game: we set a timer (20-30 seconds) and we try to see who can make their teeth the foamyist in that time. Playing 2-3 times each brushing will equal the time required for brushing.



answers from Rockford on

I got my almost 4 year old grandson a tooth brush that blinks for 1 minute so they know how long to brush! It's really cute and he loves it! He will even set it for another minute! lol. I'm not sure what brand it is because it's not on the toothbrush but it was only a couple bucks and you can't change the battery so it will have to be replaced when that dies anyway. :)



answers from Kansas City on

I had this problem for a while with my 3 year old son. I started putting an egg timer in the bathroom and setting a few minutes. I gave him small rewards for brushing his teeth in the alotted time. Also, Target has a toothbrush with a flashing light. The light flashes for as long as your child is supposed to brush. My son thought it was supercool, and ever since I bought it he's been willing to brush his teeth.



answers from Kansas City on

My Grandma took out her false teeth and showed the kids what will happen if you don't brush....your teeth will fall out and never come back. My kids don't always want to brush their teeth...but it is must! Even if I have to hold them down to do it. Usually letting them do it themselves first works. Maybe try small rewards...nothing big since this is one of those things they just have to do...but, maybe an extra bedtime story if there is no arguing about it. Good luck. C.



answers from Joplin on

I, too, had a four year old son who refused to brush and has a very strong gag reflex. I read in a parent magazine about a technique that works for us. In a playful manner while you are holding his toothbrush, you go over all the food he has eaten for the day while YOU brush the surfaces of his teeth. For example, tonight I said, "O, what is that in there....did you have fruit loops this morning then brush in the back....and looky there, it is apple juice then brush the other side. Then go through the whole day's menu. By the time you get through all the foods and drinks of the day, every tooth has been touched. My son loves it AND I have the satisfaction of knowing that his teeth are brushed really well. He will even remind me when he ate something different and ask me to look for it. Of course, I don't actually see any or most of the food in there, it is just a bit of pretending. Then when the game is over, he brushes himself. I know it sounds like a silly idea (cause I thought so) but it worked for me. :) I also bought my son a firefly toothbrush that blinks for one minute. They come in different colors and aren't expensive at all. Something about the blinking and the idea that the toothbrush is controlling the time.. NOT the parent. Good luck!



answers from Rockford on

This may sound a lil drastic but if u know someone who doesn't take good care of their teeth like they have false teeth or their teeth are just nasty show him them and say do u want your teeth to look like that and I bet he will start to brush his teeth after that.



answers from Peoria on

they have all kinds of flavors, what kind does Grandma use? What kind of toothbrush does he use over her house? This could be the problem, but daycare will teach him that it is someything he has to do after every meal and he will surprise you and just do it.



answers from Tulsa on

I think lecturing him on the importance of brushing he will only hear BLAH-BLAH-BLAH!!

I took my daughter to the dentist and they were far more successful and now she fears the "cavity creeps"! Also, She has to have a filling in the back and they are going to have to sedate her for it so I would do whatever it took!

Electric tooth brushes have been a big help for us.

Also...FYI, the dentist told me that it's good to let your child brush their teeth in the morning so they learn how, but when they're young my daughter is 4) you need to brush and floss @ night so that you get everything and it doesn't hang out in their mouth all night.

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