My oldest two kids are technically old enough to brush their own teeth now, but they do a crappy job. Our compromise is this: they brush their own teeth in the morning before school (with me calling out from the other room, “Are you getting the BACKS? Get EVERY surface of EVERY tooth please!”), and I brush their teeth for them before bed. And then there are three more kids, so the Toothbrushing Line is a significant chunk of our bedtime routine.
One thing that’s made things easier for me is having the kids LIE DOWN while I brush their teeth. I got this idea from the dentist—not in that he suggested it, but in that I noticed that’s how HE did it. And indeed, it is way superior: the toothpaste doesn’t drizzle down their chins, it’s easier to see the top and back teeth and to get at them, it’s easier for the kids to open their mouths wide, it’s easier to keep their heads still.
A second thing that’s made things easier is cheap electric toothbrushes. I buy the Colgate Motion brushes, which come in a 2-pack at Target for something like $8. Each child has his or her own color. As long as you get an electric toothbrush near the teeth, you don’t have to scrub it around very much: contact = success. I’ve found this extremely useful in navigating the tiny, clamped mouth of a reluctant toddler, or of a baby who doesn’t yet understand he’s supposed to open wide. (This won’t work for all kids: my firstborn was, um, sensitive as a toddler, and would have needed psychotherapy if we’d used a loud, vibrating electric toothbrush on him.)
One problem is that electric toothbrushes don’t fit in standard toothbrush holders. We’re keeping ours in cups right now (except for two with flat bases, which can stand on their own), but I went searching and found this cool page on iVillage GardenWeb where people were leaving tips on how to solve this. I liked the idea about a silverware tray to put the electric toothbrushes in a drawer—but we don’t have a shallow drawer like that in the bathroom, and we have more than 5 toothbrushes. For sheer genius, the idea that catches my eye is to put the toothbrushes in a traditional holder upside-down. I would never have thought of that. Now I have to try it and see if it actually works.
Has anyone tried one of these musical toothbrushes? The one I want plays Survivor by Destiny’s Child (WHAT?), but you can also get them with Queen, Kiss, Black Eyed Peas, Smash Mouth—or, sure, Hannah Montana, High School Musical, and Transformers.
This toothbrushing timer (it also times handwashing) is pretty cool, and it has suction cups so you can put it on the wall and not have it cluttering up the counter, but do the kids just stand there with the toothbrush lolling out of their mouths until the time is up? This is a device I might even use myself: I can see hitting the button before starting to brush—although I can also see cheating.
We had a couple of tooth-care themed books such as Does a Lion Brush? (baby-preschool) and How Many Teeth? (ages 4-8) and Open Wide, Tooth School Inside (ages 9-12), but I found they had limited re-read appeal. The kids wanted to hear them once or twice, and then it was about as fun as hearing me say again and again, “EVERY surface of EVERY tooth, please!” This makes them a great library choice.
Spit it out: how do you make kid-toothbrushing less of a pain?