Ideas Wanted

It is backwards day over at Works for Wed. I have a question to put to the blogosphere. How does one get a toddler to start brushing their teeth? We bought the Elmo toothbrush, and the princess toothpaste...she ended up sleeping with it. Kind of missed the whole brushing thing. I can't get her to put the brush into her mouth. She will brush my mouth, Daddy's mouth, she even tried to brush kitty's mouth...What should I try???


  1. Try a spin brush or maybe try switching toothpaste flavors. Think of a reward that she can have after brushing, too. Be sure to check behind her brushing. Good luck! It takes a while.

  2. I bought a brush for my kids a couple weeks back called Dr. Firefly. You can find it on some online drugstores.

    It flashes for a minute so that they know how long to brush. But my kids love turning out the light and watching it flash while the brush.

    (I love the "She slept with them" line! CUTE!)


  3. Hey, these baby teeth will fall out pretty soon anyway. In my view the point of brushing at this stage is mostly to establish the habit.

    If she has developed an aversion to brushing, I say just give it up for another 3 months until she has forgotten about it and then make it exciting and try again.

    (Sorry if this grosses out some of the moms out there. FWIW I'm a Dad surfing w/ my wife who thinks it is gross advice. But we had our daughter brush her baby teeth a lot by herself and I know she often didn't do a very good job. Now she's eight has lost most all of her baby teeth and none of them had cavities before they fell out.)

  4. I second the spin brush idea. That's what got our daughter to start brushing on her own.

    I will sometimes brush my teeth with her. She likes to copy what she sees me doing.

    Also, double check that she likes the flavor of the toothpaste (my husband's minty-fresh stuff is too strong for our kid), and make sure she's not teething or doesn't have any kind of ear infection or sinus pressure (both of which often lead to painful teeth/gums).

  5. Have her come in while you are brushing. Don't make a big deal out of it. Just brush your teeth (be sure she has her things ready to go as well). Casually ask if she wants to join you. After a little bit of observation time she might be ready to dive in to the whole tooth brushing world. :)

    Duckabush Blog

  6. You have some good comments here which should work. We also casually told our son that the tooth fairy loves clean teeth. In passing, during conversation, not as a lecture, we would mention that the tooth fairy would not pick up dirty teeth or that the tooth fairy left a much smaller payment for teeth that were not clean.

  7. I'm sure I had a book where the main character loved cleaning her teeth when i was little. Unfortunately I can't remember what it was called! Try googling or amazon...!

  8. We brush our "animal" teeth.
    Open wide, do the molars - time to brush the Hippo teeth!

    Front teeth together, fierce growl - time to brush the Tiger teeth


    For one particularly difficult time and child, we had two brushes - one for her to hold and suck on, one for the actual brushing. Turns out she didn't want to mess up her Dora toothbrush.

    You might try just plain water - no paste - until it's a habit. Also, I would sing the ABC song but end with "And now Emma's teeth are clean" instead of "Next time won't you sing with me". The song helped them know how long to brush for.

  9. I think you've got some great suggestions already! The only thing I would add is to maybe try taking turns - let her brush your teeth with your toothbrush and then it would be your turn to brush her teeth with her brush... Good luck! :)

  10. oooh. I have a friend who is a pediatric dentist. Maybe I can get her to post up here. I'll try at any rate. :)

  11. My son loves music, so we sing. Well, I sing. Right now it's "If you're happy and you know it brush your teeth!" He's almost two, so he'd rather look at the cool toothpaste and play with the extra toothbrush while I get a few random brushes in his mouth. Then I let him try - which is usually either just chewing on it or sucking off the toothpaste.

  12. You could try the musical toothbrushes that Walmart has. My DD10 actually brushes the full 2 minutes now cuz she wants to hear the whole song. Plus she dances while doing it so she's getting exercise too LOL!

    My friend's dd2 liked to brush Mommy's teeth, so she said it's only fair, you brush mine, then I get to brush yours.

  13. I blogged about this a couple of WFMW ago. I made up a few songs that are about 2 min long. I ask my toddler what song he wants and I sing that while brushing his teeth. It helps that we have spiderman toothpaste too.
    Now to get your teen...hmm that's a toughy because you don't want to sit there watching him. There's a matter of trust involved but also you must parent. Sometimes I ask, "let me smell your breath" or I ask for a kiss/hug to get close enough and tell if the brushing occurred. Other than the last thing before he leaves for school in the morning and the last thing at night is, "Have you brushed your teeth?

  14. My son (3 and a half)refused to brush his teeth as well. Until I told him that if he didn't brush his teeth every night they would fall out and he wouldn't be able to chew carrots or candy (yes he loves both equally!) and would have to eat baby oatmeal with his sister (no sugar or raisins.) It worked! So as I brush his teeth, I talk about all the things he ate that day that I'm scrubbing away. For some reason, he thinks it's hilarious, and actually stands still with his mouth wide open so I can brush. I let him "brush" his own teeth in the morning--they are going to fall out, after all...I figure one real brushing a day is enough for now.

  15. We also have a child who loves the idea of toothbrushing more than the actual task. We havetried several different things, but here is what is working best right now. I always start by brushing 10 seconds for him. I count slowley and brush all over. Then I hand him the toothbrush and brush my teeth. It seems like seeing me do it encourages him to get in the groove. I act silly and brush longer than normal hoping that he will get most of his mouth.

    I love that she sleeps with it.

  16. I think maybe a reward might work, but not candy, obviously, or that would defeat the purpose. Go to the dollar store and check out what they have. Does she like pretty things to put in her hair? Does she like stickers? You can get that stuff cheap and it might motivate her. I'm really into bribery with my kids. It usually works.

  17. Think you may be approaching this too agressively and I would be concerned about introducing the concept: "Do this and get rewarded."
    Why not try: Do nothing, model the behavior (brush your teeth and make a big deal about how happy you are that the teeth are clean and shiny), and let her ask decide she wants to brush too.
    She will decide to brush in her own time, meanwhile let her practice brushing your teeth if that's what she wants to do.

  18. I introduced tooth brushing when my son got his first tooth ... nine months?

    I suggest multiple steps. It makes brushing teeth a longer task, but it'll work. Also, I use a small child's tooth brush like you got, and the toddlers tooth paste with Thomas the Tank on it ... the same premis as Elmo -- something they like.

    First, place the tooth paste (the kind she can swallow) on the brush, then open her mouth with your hand and brush her teeth for her, allowing her to suck on the tooth paste every now and then. Teach her how to stick out her tongue and brush that, too.

    Then, once you're done with her teeth, brush yours with her tooth brush (I just used a "fake" dallop of toothpaste and water), showing her how you do it.

    Then, tell her ... "Your turn!" and let her play with the tooth brush in her mouth. Praise her a TON, even if she doesn't do anything.

    Now, at 2, my son can brush his own teeth pretty well, but I still do the same procedure as above, except I no longer brush my own teeth.

    Good luck, and for what it's worth, I don't think you're being too aggressive about brushing teeth. Although, personally, I feel that praise from mommy should be offered instead of treats, rewards, or prizes.

  19. The first time Princess balked at brushing her teeth we told her that we had to get rid of the Sugar Monsters!

    The Sugar Monsters? Oh, no! Princess can't go to sleep with Sugar Monsters in her mouth!

    And while we brush her teeth we sing our little song (to the tune of the ever popular hello or goodbye song used at any toddler activity):
    Bye-bye, Sugar Monsters.
    Bye-bye, Sugar Monsters.
    Bye-bye, Sugar Monsters.
    Get off Princess's teeth!

    Keep singing until your done brushing.

  20. My older three have only just started brushing their own teeth (and they're 7, 6 and 6). I always just did it myself because I wanted to make sure it was done properly.

  21. We "look" for stuff she has eaten during the day. (e.g. Oh! I see yogurt! 'Bye 'bye yogurt!)
    My husband also has limited success by brushing other body parts in between. So he'll brush a few teeth, then brush her nose, then back to the teeth, then brush her ears. She barely opens her mouth for the teeth part but, boy, is her nose ever clean!


    Thanks for delurking! I love the name of your blog.

  22. My kids love to be tickled... so we told them we had to tickle their teeth. They loved it and wanted to tickle our teeth, their teeth, anyones teeth. We also floss their teeth (ages 5 & 3) everynite. Here we told them we had to count their teeth to make sure none were missing. Again- they love it and want to see every night if they have grown any more teeth in there.

  23. I tell my two year old to "tickle" her teeth, and that makes her laugh, then she'll try. Usually I'll take the toothbrush and say, "I'm going to tickle your teeth!!!" in a silly voice, and she'll smile, which allows me to brush her teeth. A few "tickle, tickle, tickles," let me get the back teeth, too, if I'm quick.

    MG has a Lorax toothbrush. I crack myself up saying, "I am the Lorax, I speak for the teeth!" but my friends without kids just don't get it. :)

    Amy @

  24. I have my 3 year old lay down on his bed with his head between my legs and brush his teeth dentist style. Easiest access. I used to have to put one of his arms under each of my legs to keep his hands out of the way but haven't had to do that for awhile. He was much more intersted and cooperative after his first real dentist visit at 2 1/2.

    Baby teeth are important as decay in baby teeth can lead to decay in permanent teeth even before they come in. Also, they work as space holders. If teeth have to be pulled before secondary teeth are ready to come in, the rest of the teeth will shift causing spacing problems later on.

    Although it is great to encourage toddler to brush their own teeth, it is still important for parents to do at least one good brushing before bedtime each night!

    Singing songs and making it fun or funny usually works wonders. We used a spinner toothbrush for a while but I found it harder to maneuver in his mouth. I got one of the blinky toothbrushes too. No matter what toothbrush we use though the novelty of it wears off quickly. Making it a fun game seems to work best. Some nights though even that doesn't work and you just have to power through the protests.

    Also, the rule in our house has always been no stories until after teeth are brushed and if he keeps stalling, he loses stories. We go from 3 to 2 to none, although usually the "none" nights are few and far between.

    Good luck!


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