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A toddler with a few teeth

tooth care: tips for toddler teeth brushing

2 minutes


Teeth-brushing for adults is mundane, routine and as simple as breathing. Introduce the concept to children, however, and suddenly it’s transformed into a bizarre, sometimes horrifying and difficult task that can make every morning and bedtime into a battle of wills…

But as irritating as it can be – don’t fret. It’s a very normal toddler reaction to resist something they don’t enjoy, and even the most reluctant tooth-brusher can often be brought around with enough encouragement.

Ways to make toddler tooth-brushing more appealing

‘My son hated brushing his teeth as the toothpaste was “yucky”,’ says Toby. ‘But when he was three years old the dentist said brushing “needed to improve”, which obviously made me feel great! So me and Isaac went shopping together and he chose a Batman toothbrush and Frozen toothpaste, which helped quite a lot. And the older he got the more he understood that the quicker he did it, the quicker the ordeal was over!’

There’s a whole range of character toothbrushes/pastes out there, which can make everything seem a bit more fun. Plus, experiment with different flavors of children’s toothpaste to find which they prefer.

Other ways to help with toddler teeth-brushing include:

Sing a song

Sing a special tooth-brushing song whenever it’s time to clean their teeth! It will often work to distract very young children if nothing else.

Introduce a reward system

Every time your little one brushes their teeth, offer them a sticker on a reward chart (or a marble in a reward ‘jar’) and once it’s full, they get a special prize.

Give your child control over the process

When your child is at the toddler stage, try letting them clean their own teeth, perhaps offering a mirror to engage them while they’re doing it. Having a sense of control can help a child feel more comfortable with a process.

Explain to them why they’re cleaning their teeth

‘When Lola knew that she needed to brush her teeth because otherwise they could get smelly or have little holes in them, she really turned a corner,’ says mom, Phoebe. ‘We were careful not to use “scare tactics” but she just became more interested in the task and it became an important Big Girl job.’

"It’s understandable that a child’s reluctance to brush their teeth can be a big source of worry – no one wants their child to have cavities. But with a lot of patience and plenty of rewards, tooth brushing will become another simple part of everyday life, just like yours. "

We hope that these tips make the next teethbrushing session with your toddler much more enjoyable so that they leave with squeaky clean teeth.

For more advice on toddler milestones, read our other pieces ranging on our Parenting Community:

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