Wondering what to do when your toddler won’t brush teeth? This very common problem can be extremely frustrating for parents.
Dentists generally recommend that we start brushing our baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. This starts good dental hygiene habits early which can lead to a lifetime of better dental health.
That all sounds great and reasonable, but unfortunately toddlers aren’t exactly known for being reasonable. Many toddlers hate having their teeth brushed, will throw tantrums, refuse to brush, and make their parents question whether brushing is really worth the fight.
My first son never gave me any problems with brushing his teeth and I thought I had this thing down. Enter my second child and it turns out I know nothing.
So I completely understand the temptation of pinning a toddler down to brush teeth. But for something we have to do two times every single day, I really wanted to find a way to make it a more positive experience. At the very least, I did not want to make teeth brushing any more miserable. I was tired of the tantrums and fights and figured there had to be a better way.
So I started searching and asking every mom and dentist I knew for any secret tips to get a toddler to brush their teeth.
How do you make brushing teeth fun? How can I help him not hate this?
And here I am getting to use all of their great advice again with my third who is also staunchly anti-tooth brushing. So I put together a list of all of the best tips I found and hopefully at least one of these or perhaps a combination of many will help you get your toddler’s teeth brushed!
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Tips For When Your Toddler Won’t Brush Teeth
Here are the absolute best tips I’ve discovered to help those little teeth get brushed!
Take Turns Brushing
Have them brush first and you brush second or vice versa. Lots of toddlers want to do things for themselves, so use that to your advantage and let them brush their own teeth. Since their brushing will not be enough, use your turn to tell them what a great job they did while you brush it all again.
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Just “Check” Their Teeth
Some toddlers won’t want you to brush after them, but might let you just “check” their teeth. Praise the awesome job they did brushing, while checking and brushing again.
Find Things Hiding In Their Teeth
Being a little silly while brushing/checking can make this more fun for your toddler and help curb resistance.
Tell them you found a bit of their dinner stuck on their teeth when you go to brush. Some parents see other silly things hiding in their toddler’s teeth like sugar bugs or wild animals and “chase” them around their mouth.
Get A Fun Toothbrush
The right toothbrush can be a game-changer. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s toddler logic.
Let them pick out a toothbrush that they love and they might actually want to use it.
Choose a toothbrush with their favorite characters like Paw Patrol to get them more excited about brushing!
Also consider an electric toothbrush, the novelty might win over your toddler and you can get those teeth super clean. The Baby Shark BriteBrush is a popular choice as it plays music and includes a game that rewards proper brushing.
Try Yummy Toothpaste
One reason your toddler could be reluctant to brush could be as simple as yucky toothpaste. The mint flavor you use is probably super overpowering for your little one. Try some different kid friendly toothpastes.
There are lots of different flavors for kids and finding one your child loves could suddenly turn them into a tooth brushing enthusiast!
A couple great options that parents swear by are Tom’s Of Maine which comes in grape, blueberry, strawberry, and orange mango flavors and Tasty Paste which comes in chocolate, vanilla, and orange flavors.
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Read Books About Brushing Teeth
Your toddler probably doesn’t see other people brushing their teeth. Show them that everyone brushes by reading books about it.
For very young toddlers, Brush Brush Brush By Alicia Padron is a cute little book about brushing teeth which can be read or sung.
For older toddlers, we like the book Brush Your Teeth, Please by Jean Pidgeon. It has pop ups and pull tabs making it fun for kids to read about brushing teeth.
Brush Your Teeth
Model the behavior by letting them watch you brush your teeth. While this seems simple, depending on your schedules and bathrooms, your child may never actually see that you also brush your teeth. Making an effort to show your toddler when you brush your teeth can help normalize it to them.
Try brushing your teeth at the same time. Doing it together can make it more fun.
Or try letting your toddler brush your teeth. Yes, it might be awkward and a bit uncomfortable, but it also teaches them how to brush. They can actually see what they’re doing in your mouth which can help them understand better. You’re also modeling how to hold their mouth open.
They may be more receptive to allowing you to brush after they’ve seen how it’s done and gotten to try it out on you.
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Include A Toy
Get your toddler’s favorite stuffie, doll, or action figure in the tooth brushing action. Toys make everything more fun, even brushing your teeth.
First, your toddler can brush the toy’s teeth. This role play helps them understand how you brush their teeth.
Second, you can let the toy help brush your toddler’s teeth. It can be a bit challenging to hold the toy just right while brushing your child’s teeth, but kids find this hilarious and it might just be the ticket to getting a tooth brush in their mouth. A puppet works extremely well for this, but improvise with whichever toy makes them smile.
Use Two Toothbrushes
Using two toothbrushes you and your toddler brush their teeth at the same time. While they’re brushing or chewing on their toothbrush, you manage to get that second toothbrush in there and actually get the teeth clean.
They’re distracted by their own toothbrush and though it might be a bit awkward maneuvering the second brush, hopefully they won’t put up a fight.
This advice seems to have worked well for lots of parents, as several moms suggested it to me.
Sing A Toddler Brushing Teeth Song
Songs can be a great way to change your toddler’s mood about brushing teeth. If you are feeling creative enough make up your own silly words about brushing teeth to any of your favorite tunes.
If inspiration doesn’t strike, try classic Raffi Brush Your Teeth song or Little Baby Bum’s This Is The Way We Brush Our Teeth.
The most popular song recommendation from other parents was the Elmo Teeth Brushing song and over a billion views on Youtube seem proof enough of its success.
Reward Tooth Brushing
While this doesn’t work for every parent and child, some kids respond well to positive reinforcement. Giving lots of praise when they allow you to brush their teeth is a great place to start.
Offering an incentive for good tooth brushing can be a motivator so they’ll let you get their teeth clean. A sticker reward chart could help your toddler get over their resistance to brushing and they can see their progress.
If the sticker isn’t incentive enough consider working towards a larger treat or reward.
Creating a habit takes consistency. Make teeth brushing part of your child’s morning and evening routines.
Wavering on the importance of brushing teeth when your toddler refuses can be confusing and reinforce your toddler’s resistant behaviors.
Creating this good habit at an early age is a great way to get your child’s dental health off to a good start!
Any other parents struggle when a toddler won’t brush teeth? How do you handle it?
Do you have any tips that we missed? Let us know in the comments!