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 doctors 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 a for a crazy toddler teeth brushing struggle!
Toddler Won’t Brush 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.
Now I had a strong willed toddler opposed to brushing her teeth and I was just a mom who wanted to do what was best for her child’s dental health.
I wanted to learn more about why this happening and how to make this part of our morning and bedtime routine easier.
Why Do Children Not Like Brushing Their Teeth?
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 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!
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.
What Should You 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.
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 holding your toddler down and brushing their teeth?! Yeah, I got that recommendation already. I didn’t take that advice and you don’t have to either.
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 Tooth Brushing Fun For Toddlers
Sorry mama, 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”
You could have your toddler pick from two different brands of toothpaste. Maybe they like a certain fruity flavor, or they want to pick the toothpaste with their favorite cartoon character.
4. Make sure the toothbrush is a good fit
Toddler 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 thats a different shape and colorful. 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.
Sesame Street Ready, Set, Brush!
Planning Ahead for The First Dentist Visit
If you’ve been in the toddler teeth brushing struggle 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 more welcoming than a “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 grandparents 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 and brings them comfort? Bring it with you or keep 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 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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