06/07/2009 08:59 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne - My Daughter Won't Brush Her Teeth

Do you have a parenting question or dilemma for life coach Joanne Mallon? Send it in to this address and say if you'd like your name changed.

Bernie asks:

What's the best way of getting your toddler to clean her teeth? Ours loves her toothbrush but she chews on it rather than cleans her teeth with it (it's starting to look like a dog toy) and the family dentist tells me that this isn't enough.

The problem is that when I try to clean her teeth she either clamps her mouth shut or screams like she is being tortured. The upside of this is that I can get in there while her mouth is open but it's horrible for both of us. I've tried cleaning my teeth at the same time so that she can copy me but are there any other solutions?

Here's life coach Joanne's advice:

Dear Bernie

As your daughter is still a toddler, there's a good chance that her mouth may genuinely be giving her trouble at the moment. Back molars will be emerging up to around two years old. Since she may not have been teething for a while, and these teeth are hidden away at the back of the mouth, it's easy to forget that this could be what's happening. Have a look or (if she'll let you) stick a finger in her mouth to find out if this is the case. If you think it is, try some teething remedies such as infant paracetamol, teething powder, a teething ring or even a cold, raw carrot.

Some children get through teething with no symptoms, whilst others have many including going off their food, poor sleeping and diarrhoea. But the good news is that this is the last time you and she will have to deal with Attack of the Giant Teeth. That is, until her wisdom teeth come through, but she'll be an adult by then and you will have retired to Hawaii, so you won't have to deal with that one.

If it's not teething that's the problem, then it may simply be a case of not wanting to do what she's told to. Many children will object to things they have to do, such as teeth brushing and putting on sun cream. Sometimes you just have to be firm and persevere. Eventually they'll get the message that this is not an optional activity. Don't allow yourself to get wound up by this. You're the adult, you know it's not worth a fight over.

One thing that was successful in our house was getting a Tooth Tunes toothbrush, which plays music in the child's mouth and inserts motivational phrases like "Great job!" "Keep brushing" etc. Yes, it's noisy, plastic and slightly annoying. But it gets the job done and might be worth a try. Or maybe let her have the brush she loves for chewing, and another one for actually cleaning her teeth?

Good luck,


Send your question in to life coach Joanne here

More parenting advice from Joanne at this link