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« Q&A: toddler running away from parent in public | Main | Q&A: 2-year-old sleeping (and everything else) problems »



This is so funny-- my 20-month old is having major sleep issues and so are his two best friends. And, he's suddenly stopped eating. And, he bit another child this week. Thankfully, he still loves to brush his teeth but who knows how long that will last!


We got a firefly toothbrush from target. You squeeze the end and it lights up. The idea is they're supposed to brush for as long as the brush is flashing, but Jamie just thought it was really cool. There are still days where he doesn't want to brush, and if all the usual tricks don't work, I don't force it.


We got a lot of resistence starting at 9 months. As in it took one brusher and one holder to get it done. But neither dh nor I have great teeth, so we needed to be firm about it.

What worked for us was singing her favorite songs. I don't remember why or how we started...I think implicit was that we could brush her teeth until the song ended. Some days are better than others with squirming, etc., but by now she knows that it doesn't matter if she resists--her teeth are going to be brushed.

She's kind of particular about song choice and sometimes you have to make 5-6 suggestions before she consents! (But she just turned 2.)


My daughter has gone through a couple of different phases where she didn't want to have her teeth brushed. When she was really young (maybe 18-20 months or so) I used to "trade" with her. In other words, I let her brush my teeth and then she let me brush hers. Admittedly, having your teeth brushed by a toddler is one of the scariest things you can subject yourself to, but it worked. We didn't have to do that too long before she started to lose interest. When she was a little older (2 1/2 or so), she started insisting that only she brush her teeth. To deal with this, we made a rule that she could brush her teeth by herself every other time. Not ideal, but at least we know that she's getting brushed really well at least once a day. Her teeth are holding up pretty well so far (knock on wood!), so this system seems to be working.


Too funny-- I just read an idea for this in the Happiest Toddler book. He suggests "brushing" random body parts (Now we're going to brush your knee! Now your ear! Now your belly button!) touching each part for a couple seconds, like a super brief game once or twice a day and the theory is that after a couple days they *should* let you touch the teeth, which you can "brush" for a second or so until surely by the time they are in college you can brush the whole mouth for the prescribed two minutes. Oops, I mean it should work within a week or two . . .


We never had much luck with wiping my daughter's teeth because she won't allow us to reach into her mouth for any reason. Finally, I got her a toothbrush with a handle and let her chomp on it while I brushed my teeth in front of her. She was about 18 months when she got interested in doing it herself. After a while, she started wanting my toothbrush, so I gave her one just like mine and she chomped and chomped. There wasn't much brushing going on, but there was progress.

Only around 22 months did she let me go from pantomiming the brushing she needed to do to letting me brush a little. I always ask if Mommy can do a little, and now the pattern (at 24 months) is she "brushes", she asks me to brush a little, then she "brushes". I try to remind myself that slow progress is still progress.

Over time, we have accumulated three toothbrushes for her and I let her pick which one she's going to use. She gets excited at picking, sometimes to the point where she insists on brushing with each one before being done and we have to sing a song to transition out of teeth brushing.


We STILL struggle with this, and our daughter is 4.5. We have had some luck with making each tooth a family member (let's brush papa! now brush nana!), or finding animals stuck inside teeth (wow! I just got a squirrel! oh no! a raccoon is stuck back here.), or even talking about all of the food she ate (gross! I just found some cereal from breakfast - let's get that. here's your sandwich!)
Most of these worked better when she was younger. Now she just rolls her eyes at me.


When my 2 year old does not open his mouth wide enough for me to get the toothbrush in, I say, "Let's see how big you can open you mouth!!" (very excitedly). After he opened it, I said, "Wow, look how big you can open your mouth!" He loved it, and his teeth got brushed too. On those occasions when he refused to open his mouth regardless, I forced him. I did this by pushing on his cheeks with my thumb and pointer (where you can suck in and make a fishy face), and he would open his mouth. His teeth did not get perfectly clean when I had to do this, but at least he learned that he did not have a choice about brushing his teeth. It is not often that he flat out refuses.


wow, i am glad you wrote about this, we have the same problem. 18 month old will not have her teeth brushed and my question is: is it ok to force her? i dont like doing it but her teeth should be bushed *sometimes*... if you go softly softly with her she will let you brush maybe one tooth - sigh!


Having her chew on the brush is better than nothing so I would go with that. Then try to work in some more things. I love the idea of letting the child try brushing my teeth.
My daughter is now 2.5 and I let her brush her teeth then I check them and count each one to make sure they are all there as a way to help her with numbers. We also changed the words to The Wheels on the Bus. Now The Brush in Ellie's mouth goes up and down (like the windows) as we move the brush around, round and round (like the wheels), and back and forth. When I said cheese she would smile as if she was having her picture taken. Cheese became cheeseburger which had me signing Cheeseburger in Paradise (she said it Cheeseburger in Paris dice). When I needed to brush her tounge it was Toungeburger. My 14 month old just chews on the brush right now. He has NO teeth so it helps with teething pain plus introducing the brush.
Good luck


when I was little, we had a toothbrushing routine that I loved and still look back fondly on. for now I have no kids myself, but I've done it with a number of small charges and it usually works great.

* for kids old enough, let them squeeze the toothpaste on (if you can handle the fist in the middle of the tube).
* while we brushed, we sang the song about 'there was a farmer had a dog...'
* I sang the chorus and the letters. when it comes time to make a non-letter noise, I stopped brushing and let the kid go "ah ah" or "mm mm" (depending on where the toothbrush is). often they like to look in the mirror and see all the toothpaste frothing around in there.
* it works great because the song lasts at least 90 seconds or more, plus there are increased opportunities for kid noise-making as the song goes along.
* also, we always brush tongues at the end. (with toothbrushes...)

when I was a kid I loved the whole bingo thing so much that I did it along with all my little siblings until my little brother was old enough to brush his teeth by himself (he's ten years younger than me).


FWIW, this past Christmas my daughter received and electric Dora toothbrush in her stocking...she brushed her teeth 3 times that day and told my cousin it was her favorite present and she continues to use it every day.
Good luck.


My son was very young when he got his first tooth (4 months!) so we had to resort to a silicone toothbrush that looks a lot like a mouthpiece but with tiny bristles. He always chomps on it and with each bite, the bristles clean teeth and gums. Definitely easier than using a toothbrush - which he just chews on.
Here's what the toothbrush looks like - called My First Toothbrush:


My son doesn't have teeth yet, but when I was a nanny I cared for a very stubborn girl with bad teeth. Who, of course, hated brushing. So I let her brush my teeth (jaw firmly clenched) while I did hers. Worked quite well.


Our daughter flat out refused to have her teeth brushed or wiped when she was younger. So from a pretty early age (8 months or so) we let her sit on the edge of the sink, feet dangling in, with the water trickling. She'd happily stick her toothbrush into the running water, put it in her mouth and slurp and chew a bit, over and over. Figured it was better than nothing. And now, at 2, she's totally fine with proper toothbrushing. We take turns, we do some, then she does some.


When I was little, my parents let me lay down on the floor while they brushed my teeth. I have no idea why I thought this was so much more fun than standing up, but I would happily open my mouth.


My daughter responds best to lying down, also. For us, I sit on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me, and she sits on my lap and then lays down on my legs. I don't know why she thinks this is fun, maybe because she's almost upside down? We try to keep it light and happy, and like others, if she fights it, we quit and try again later. We also use Tom's of Maine strawberry toothpaste, which she LOVES.

Jen3 @ Amazing Triplets

We brush our babies teeth every night before bed. I hand them their electric toothbrush during diaper changes - which they love and helps me keep them distracted and not grabbing at poopy diapers, but every night while they stand in their crib, we get in and do a GOOD brushing. We had a bit of resistance at first, but now they expect it and most times - open wide. Although, the bottom teeth can be a bit tricky to get.

Last month, I posted about our first trip to the pediatric dentist when our triplets were 19-months old. What I learned was a HUGE eye opener. Here's the link ...



I like to stock 3-4 fun toothbrushes, and let my daughter choose. Also, I give her a few minutes to brush her own teeth, and then we do it together.

A few months ago, she would brush her teeth, then I (or my husband) would, but that turned into a 2-week power struggle, where every time it was my turn to brush, it got ugly. So, one night, my husband merely changed the language - "let's brush your teeth together", and ever since then, she's been happy to do it.


We brush the boy's teeth every night after his bath. He doesn't like it, but we do it.

If I let his baby teeth become permanently damaged I would feel horrible, so me *make* him let us brush them. Sometimes it takes both of us, sometimes not.

Does that make us bad parents? I cannot believe it does.

Teresa M.

I had a similar problem w/our 2yr old when I was ready to go from wiping the teeth to brushing. Our Ped. suggested something that worked wonders! Have the child brush your teeth first then you brush theirs. It worked beautifully and we still do it that way so everyone feels like they did what they wanted to do & Mommy & Daddy feel like all tooth surfaces were cleaned. Good luck!


Sound effects seem to be the all-purpose helper for that age at our house. I get them to go "aaah" and then I make silly sound effects while I brush their teeth. "Bzzz-oop! Aaaah-booo-whoop! Brrrr-rrr-eeee-ooo!" It helps if you make funny faces at the same time. It's much easier to get a toothbrush into their mouths while they're laughing.

Or I have them sing scales with the different vowel sounds.


BTW, sound effects work for eating, too. If they figure out that you'll make a silly sound every time they put a bite of food in their mouths and then a different sound when they chew, and a big silly gulping noise when they swallow, they'll keep eating just to get you to make the silly sounds.


we have had great luck with buying some cheap little stamps from the dollar store, and when we finish brushing teeth he gets a stamp on his hand (sometimes one on each) This has worked for a long time (he is turning 3 next month) I think we have been doing it over a year for sure... he still looks forward to it everynight. THe key is changing the stamps every once in awhile to keep him interested in them.


While I don't have any experience brushing my own child's teeth YET, I was a nanny for several years and had the joy of brushing toddler teeth.

Since we had started learning our letters of the alphabet, seeing how long we could say "EEEEEEEEE" and "aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh" while I brushed fronts and insides was a great game.


hiya, i have a two year old who refuesed to let me brush his teeth at any given time, no matter what i did he would nt let me brush them. now im in the prosess of takin him to the dentist becasue his two front top teeth are decaying! and hes screaming at the top of his lungs my teeth hurt, has any one else had it this bad? and if so what does the dentist acctually do about it?

Tony Connors

I heard an interesting question at a wedding reception involving teeth. We only have one nerve in each tooth right? Then how come we can feel food through the hard structure of our teeth? Wouldn't that be like feeling a glob of cement on the other side of a brick wall?


My daughter used to HATE brushing her teeth. But then I started to let her brush my teeth while I brushed hers. She loves it! She concentrates so hard on brushing my teeth and she forgets about not wanting her teeth brushed. After a few months that wore off, so now she brushes her baby doll's teeth while I brush hers. It is great, no more tears and fights with the toothbrush.

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Its a good idea of letting the child try brushing my teeth,thank you for bringing up this its very informative.

by: florence

new balance

We cannot always build the future for our youth , but we can build our youth for the future .

Dentists Seattle

I agree, and don't forget to visit your dentist also.

Toddler  care

Very useful and informative topic to discuss.. Making toddler to brush is one of the difficult work..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diKj68Rb_xk But this article sounds like solution for me.. I will sure try out this..Thanks you!!!

bartlett dental

These are very nice tips that I will try out, I am glad I ran into it. Thanks.

Dentist Porcelain Veneers

Very commendable post. The topic seems like interesting to read..it gives me a lot of ideas and point of view. Glad you have shared this.. :)

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Make sure your tooth paste looks delicious so that the child will be encouraged to brush his teeth.

hinsdale dentist

I tried you advice on my patients and it worked for them as well. I'm so glad I read your blog.

Fort Collins Colorado Dentist

I agree that making it fun will encourage kids to brush more and will make it a good daily habits too. Kudos for sharing the tips!

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very funny! Good way for stimulate the child to brush his teeth. Thank for posting.

dentist Woollahra wisdom teeth

I've actually tried all those but still having a little trouble getting Junior to brush his teeth. I guess it's time to try a combination of those techniques. Maybe that will work.

cosmetic dental surgery

I brush my teeth regularly by Colgate fresh energy gel toothpaste. I suggest to all my friends for brushing his teeth. White teeth shows you are a good guy.

wisdom teeth extraction

There is no magic toothbrushing trick. Just a bunch of things you can try and hope that one or more of them work.

Catina Orefice

I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

Ling Eriksson

Greetings, I do think your site could possibly be having web browser compatibility problems. When I take a look at your website in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in I.E., it's got some overlapping issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Other than that, excellent blog!

Clementine Mondy

There's certainly a lot to know about this topic. I really like all of the points you have made.


Outstanding quest there. What occurred after? Good luck!

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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