One of the most challenging tasks you may face is getting your toddler to brush their teeth regularly. Toddlers are notorious for being stubborn and resistant, especially when it comes to things they don’t like or understand. Toddler won’t brush teeth? I completely understand.
As a new mom, I was excited to take my daughter to her one year old checkup. Her pediatrician asked me several questions about her growth and development, which I happily answered.
She also asked, “ So, are you brushing her teeth daily?” Since my daughter had several teeth at that point, the tooth brushing had been inconsistent and I knew that needed to change.
Right after leaving the doctor’s office, we went straight to Target and picked up Hello Flouride Free Training Toothpaste for Toddlers and a cute little toothbrush. My daughter seemed very excited to hold and play with the toothbrush, so I expected this to be easy. Little did I know, I was in for a crazy toddler teeth brushing struggle!
Maintaining proper oral hygiene is crucial for their health and well-being. In this article, we’ll explore some tips and tricks to help you convince your toddler to brush their teeth regularly.
Is it normal for toddlers to hate brushing teeth?
As you might expect, my daughter did NOT like brushing her teeth and she didn’t want ME to brush them either. I started to worry because Web MD recommends that you start taking care of your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear.
It’s not uncommon for toddlers to resist or hate brushing their teeth. Many toddlers view brushing their teeth as an unwelcome interruption to their playtime or a task they’d rather not do.
Additionally, some toddlers may experience anxiety, fear, or discomfort related to brushing their teeth, which can make the experience unpleasant for them.
There could be several reasons why your toddler is resisting brushing their teeth. Getting to the cause of the problem might help you. Here are several reasons why your toddler could be avoiding toothbrushing time.
1. They have a sensory issue
As an adult, you are very familiar with the whole concept of toothbrushing, but this is all new to your toddler. They may not like the sensation of the toothbrush bristles against their teeth.
2. They don’t like the taste of the toothpaste
You don’t like every toothpaste available on the market, and neither will your toddler. That’s okay! They may also dislike the taste and texture of toothpaste.
3. They don’t like the feeling of a foreign object in their mouth
Think about it, this isn’t food or drink, but we’re asking them to put it in their mouth. It could be a strange, new concept.
4. Their gums are sore because they are getting a new tooth
You are probably familiar with the woes of teething and this is no different.
5. They want to be independent and don’t want someone else taking control, i.e. you brushing their teeth for them.
Toddlers crave independence and control. They may resist brushing their teeth if they feel their choices are not being respected.
6. Lack of routine or schedule
Toddlers thrive on routine and not having an established or consistent time to brush their teeth can make it challenging to understand or remember that it’s time to brush their teeth.
7. Difficulty with motor skills
The fine motor skills that are needed for brushing teeth can give some toddlers a hard time.
8. Tiredness or low energy
The activity of teeth brushing can come at the end of a long day when your toddler is tired and far less cooperative.
9. Fear of water
Some toddlers are afraid of water or getting their face wet, which can happen during the teeth brushing process.
10. Lack of knowledge about dental hygiene
Toddlers may simply not understand the importance of dental hygiene or have not learned how to effectively brush their teeth.
What To Do When Your Toddler Won’t Brush Their Teeth
Once you’ve figured out or pinpointed a possible cause of the toddler teeth brushing struggle, now you’re ready to try out some solutions to the problem.
Remember, these things are not one size fits all. It may take one or more of these approaches. You will have to see what works for you and your toddler.
Is it bad to force a toddler to brush their teeth?
It’s not recommended to force them. Forcing your child to brush their teeth can create negative associations with brushing and can make the experience more challenging in the long run.
If you’re wondering how you’re going to get your toddler to brush their teeth, take a deep breath and relax. This too will pass, as with most toddler parenting struggles.
Has anyone suggested just pinning your toddler down and brushing their teeth? This is not the way to go. While it may seem like a quick fix it can have long term consequences. This behavior from a trusted parent or caregiver can lead to negative associations with tooth brushing.
Instead of holding your toddler down to brush their teeth or brushing their teeth while they’re asleep, work towards toothbrushing using teamwork and cooperation instead.
How To Make Brushing Teeth Fun For Toddlers
As much as you realize the importance of dental hygiene, it is just not worth it to explain cavities until you’re blue in the face to a very young toddler.
It can be easy to be discouraged when your toddler is throwing a tantrum about brushing their teeth. Let’s focus instead on including this in our daily routines. Here are some strategies you can try!
1. Turn teeth brushing into a fun activity
Use this time to sing a silly song, make funny faces in the mirror or play a game of hide and seek. Live in the moment and don’t take it too seriously.
2. Give your toddler choices
If you give them a sense of independence or choices, they might feel like they are in charge. Instead of telling them what to do step by step like orders, try asking if they would like to brush the top or bottom teeth first?
3. Let them pick the “equipment”
4. Make sure the toothbrush is a good fit
Toddlers and kids’ toothbrushes are smaller because they have smaller teeth and mouths in general. Of course, they need special toothbrushes designed just for them! There is even a toddler toothbrush designed to clean all sides of the tooth at once!
Or consider a toothbrush that’s a different shape and color. This toothbrush has an ergonomic handle perfect for little hands. The colored bristles also let you know how much toothpaste to use.
5. Make the bathroom toddler sized
Your toddler probably wants to see themself in the mirror while doing activities at the sink just like you! Consider using a toddler helper stool to bring them up to counter height.
Also, consider a faucet extender to help your toddler feel like they can do more things on their own.
6. Learn by example
Your toddler is watching everything you do closely. Make sure your toddler sees you brushing your own teeth. You could talk them through what you’re doing, or make up a song for them to follow along to.
7. Take Turns
Fight the urge to just take over and do everything for your toddler. Taking turns brushing your teeth gives your toddler some control and also lets you ensure you are getting the results you want.
8. Give them a reward or incentive
Using a reward or sticker chart can be a powerful tool to encourage good habits and also help with challenging behaviors. If your toddler knows a reward is coming for brushing their teeth, they may be more inclined to do the activity.
9. Show them fun videos
There are lots of fun and educational videos about brushing your teeth available on You Tube! These videos might show other kids brushing their teeth or their favorite cartoon character. There’s often a catchy song that you can use too!
10. Read books about brushing your teeth
Books help toddlers learn about their world and toothbrushing is no exception! Here are some books that show your toddler more about dental hygiene.
What To Do When Your Toddler Is Hysterical When Brushing Teeth
If your toddler is hysterical when brushing their teeth, it’s important to understand their perspective. Toddlers may negative emotions during brushing, and these emotions can contribute to or exacerbate the situation.
Here are some tips to help you handle the situation:
- Validate their feelings – Let your toddler know you understand how they feel and reassure them that it’s okay to feel this way. Children at this age often feel out of control in new or uncomfortable situations.
- Make it a fun experience – Try to make brushing a fun activity by incorporating songs or games to make it more engaging. Consider letting them choose their toothbrush or toothpaste.
- Get creative – Try brushing their teeth in the bath or shower, or make a race out of it by challenging them to brush faster than you can.
- Try a different approach – If your toddler is scared of the toothbrush, try using a soft washcloth or finger brush instead to help them get comfortable with the feeling of brushing.
- Be patient and consistent – It may take some time to get your toddler comfortable with brushing, so be patient and consistent with your efforts. When the experience is positive and consistent, your toddler will likely become more comfortable and less hysterical over time.
Are There Alternatives To Brushing Toddler Teeth?
There aren’t really any safe alternatives to brushing toddler teeth. Brushing is an essential part of maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing tooth decay and other oral health problems.
You can try some of the alternative methods we discussed earlier to help make brushing easier for both parents and toddlers.
In addition, you may try finger tooth brushes that can slip onto parents’ fingers to help clean their teeth and also hard to reach areas.
If your child continues to resist brushing, talk to their dentist or pediatrician for further guidance and support.
In some cases, a dental specialist may be needed to help your child develop good oral hygiene habits and overcome their reluctance to brush.
Planning Ahead for The First Dentist Visit
If you’ve been in the toddler teeth brushing struggle for a while, you might be wondering when should you take your toddler to the dentist?
Your child’s first dental visit should be when they are getting their first tooth. However, if you’re past that point, you’re still okay to take to them before one to two years of age.
The good news about taking a toddler to the dentist for the first time is that, unlike older kids or adults, they haven’t formed any bad opinions or anxiety about the dentist yet!
Some tips for making your toddler’s first dental appointment a positive experience:
1. Pick a pediatric dentist. They are specially trained and specialize in treating children. Children’s dental offices are often decorated to appeal to the younger crowd and are more welcoming than an “adult” dental office. There are often kid-friendly distractions like colorful toys and books.
2. Use positive language to describe the trip to the dentist. Approach the visit with the same enthusiasm as a trip to somewhere your toddler enjoys, like the park or their grandparent’s home.
3. Be supportive and congratulate your toddler on a job well done. Are they doing a good job sitting in the chair or opening their mouth? Let them know!
4. Be prepared with a comfort toy or lovie. Do they have a blanket or stuffed animal they love that brings them comfort? Bring it with you or keep it in your bag just in case.
The first dental appointment is more so of a meet and greet with the dentist. It is a chance for your toddler to meet the dentist and they will do an exam to check their teeth, bite, gums, and jaw.
If you have any questions or concerns, this is a perfect time to address them. Your child’s dentist can help you will any questions you have about your toddler’s oral health.
Let me know if any of these things help you end your toddler teeth brushing struggle. I know that it can be hard when your toddler refuses to brush their teeth but you have options!
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