Thursday, October 28, 2010

Brushing Toddler Teeth

If you've never brushed a child's teeth, then you might think this post is a little silly. However, going through the toothbrushing routine with a strong-willed child can be daunting. Babies are stronger than you think and when they bite down on that toothbrush or grab it and try to pull it away, there is almost nothing you can do about it.

I've managed to figure out a few techniques that work for me and Nate (he's almost 14 months old).

1. Make up a silly song. I sing a silly song every night right before we head into the bathroom to brush. I only sing it then, which prepares him and lets him know what time it is. The crazier I get with the song, the more he laughs and gets into the mood to brush his teeth.

2. Let him get his feet wet. I sit Nate on the bathroom counter with his feet in the sink and then turn the water on. This distracts him for a few seconds while I grab the toothbrush and put the toothpaste on. It also creates a fun moment for him. It's part of our routine. Of course, you should keep a firm grasp on your child to keep him from falling.

3. Be fast. This is not a chore that you can take your time with. I have to grab Nate's hands and then brush quickly. Get the top, bottom, and sides as fast as possible. I'd love to spend a full three minutes brushing and really get those pearly whites but there is no way he is going to let me. So be quick. Don't drag the process out longer than it has to be.

4. Encourage skill development. Once I have brushed Nate's teeth, I let him hold the brush and show me his skills. I encourage him to "show mama" what he can do. He enjoys watching me in the mirror and grinning with a toothbrush in his mouth. He's getting better at it each time.

5. Model.  Is there a time when you can brush your teeth in front of your child? By showing them that even Mom and Dad brush, they will (hopefully) become more accustomed to the idea of brushing and begin to fight it less.

Each child is different. What works for you? Do you have a tip or trick to making teeth brushing easier? I'd love for you to share in the comments. 


  1. Good ideas! I'm going to have to try the song because right now Jesse is resistant. He only lets me do it a little while, and he has to be brushing them with another toothbrush at the same time!

  2. Great tips! We started brushing Avery's gums with one of those finger brushes when she was really young and she would always try to bite down, boy did it hurt. I always sing the song Brush Your Teeth by Raffi when we brush her teeth. She loves it and it does a pretty good job at distracting her. I love the idea of letting them use the toothbrush after you finish up!

  3. Very useful tips! My toddler son loves a challenge. With that thought in mind we've motivated our son to make his teeth "super shiny!" We encourage him to brush thoroughly all the while stopping him and assisting him when needed to impart the proper technique. He's only done when his teeth are so sparklingly clean that Mommy and Daddy need to shield their eyes because they're so bright. :)

    Vincent |

  4. Great tips! Our son is 13 months and we've been trying to figure out how to make teeth brushing easier. I think I may try these to see if it works for us too. Might as well try the tips now while he only has 4 teeth. ;)

  5. Great tips thanks. I have twins and although they are only 1 year old and seven teeth each I wanted to start getting into the practice and routine of brushing. I hear so many stories of teeth decay in toddlers!