Aiden has never liked for us to go near his mouth or teeth. Although our pediatrician recommended that we start “brushing his teeth” around one-year, we didn’t stress too much about it because he didn’t have teeth yet. Once the teeth started popping through we knew we had an issue because he would scream anytime we brought a cloth near his mouth to wipe the teeth (as our pediatrician advised). I even did a Mom Talk Tuesday post on Instagram asking for tips on ways to get a toddler to brush his teeth! Funny enough, shortly after that post, Dan was brushing his teeth in front of Aiden and suddenly Aiden was asking for the toothbrush. This was our first clue that Aiden was ready to start brushing his teeth. Here are my tips for getting a toddler to brush his teeth (and like it).
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Don’t force the issue.
I don’t think it is a good idea to force a toddler to brush his teeth. I understand that once the teeth come through they need to be cleaned, but if your toddler becomes super stressed at the sign of a wash cloth or toothbrush it is only going to take longer for them to do it willingly. I would try to wipe down his teeth every day and most days I was able to get a wipe, but on the days he fought I didn’t fight back.
Brush your teeth in front of him.
One thing that I think we could have done better to encourage Aiden to brush his teeth is to brush our teeth in front of him earlier. It didn’t occur to us that he might want to model the behavior if he saw us do it (we usually brush our teeth before he wakes up and after he goes to bed). Ultimately, I believe Aiden was OK with the idea of brushing his teeth once he saw Dan doing it. After that, we moved our toothbrushes to his bathroom and brushed our teeth every day with him. He even likes to “spit out” the toothpaste 😆
Get a fun toothbrush.
We found this great toothbrush set by Nuby. It has four different brushes for the different stages of baby teeth. It comes in fun colors and the perfect size for Aiden to use himself.
Read books about teeth and brushing teeth.
Working off the modeling behavior tip, I bought a few books about visiting the dentist and brushing teeth. I love Brush, Brush, Brush by Alicia Pardon and Curious George Visits the Dentist by H.A. Ray. I hope this will also help for our first dentist visit.
One thing I wish I would have added to my registry is a book and toothbrush set called The Brushies. I think if we had introduced teeth brushing earlier he may have been more willing to do it himself when the time came. This little set looks like a perfect starter set.
Make it fun.
One thing I found that works really well is to try to make teeth brushing time fun. I will sing and dance and Aiden loves to sing and dance along. If he is happy he is more likely to do what I want him to do. I also let him sit on the side of the sink and run the faucet with his feet in the sink so he gets a kick out of that.
Some ideas for songs are the Sesame Street: Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me: Brushy Brush PSA that I also let Aiden watch sometimes and Raffi’s Brush Your Teeth.
Make it routine.
Every day after dinner we read one of the teeth brushing/dentist books and then I sing the Brush Your Teeth song by Raffi. Aiden gets really excited and runs up the stairs and straight to the sink. I let him take his toothbrush off the holder and turn on the sink to brush his teeth. After a few minutes once he stops being actively engaged with the toothbrush I let him put the toothbrush away and put him in the tub for his bath. It has been a good addition to our bedtime routine.
In the beginning, I was not strict about making sure every tooth was brushed. I was more concerned with making it fun for Aiden so that as he gets used to doing this every day he learns to clean his teeth. After a few minutes of doing it himself, he will usually let me get a good brush of his teeth before I give him the toothbrush back to finish up. We recently started using Tom’s of Maine Toddler Training Toothpaste which I really like because it does not have fluoride.
Do you have any tips for getting a toddler to brush his teeth?
If you liked this post check out Transitioning to a Toddler Schedule and Product Review: Nuby Comfort 360 6 Stage Bottle to Cup Kit.