How to get Kids to Brush
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How to get Kids to Brush
I need advice on getting my nine-month old daughter to let me
brush her teeth (she currently has 5 teeth). As background, the
only thing she will let me put in her mouth is a spoon full of
food. She even refuses to let me feed her pieces of finger
food - she must do it herself. I have tried one of those infant
toothbrushes that just fits over your finger, as well as one of
the toddler toothbrushes that kind of looks like a figure 8. I
gave her the toddler toothbrush to play with, thinking that like
everything else, it would end up in her mouth and she'd
miraculously figure out that the toothbrush actually had a
purpose. Of course, no such luck - that is the one thing that
she won't put in her mouth!
So short of forcing her mouth open (which I would prefer not to
do) and fighting a mad baby, I'm not sure how to get her to let
me brush her teeth. Any ideas are appreciated!
My daughter is not too fond of toothbrushing either. She is a
bit older--almost 3--but these tricks have worked for quite
awhile. First, try having a puppet brush hold the toothbrush.
I ask my daughter who she would like to have brush her teeth and
she picks a puppet. It's a bit unwieldy, but it works. It also
works for us if I brush while she brushes and she copies what I
do in the mirror. It's not great brushing, but moving her
Hope that helps.
Hi! You don't really need to start brushing teeth until about
2, so if your toddler is really fighting it, this might not be
a battle you want to pick right now, as it is not a necessity
physiologically, and will most likely make it a turn off to her
if you are forcing her. Kids love what they think they can't
have, and by watching you do it, she will want to eventually.
Our 1 1/2 yr old just started pointing to us while WE were
brushing our teeth, showing him and humming, and he thought it
was a hoot. He wanted toothbrush, so i bought one for him, and
now when he wants to brush his teeth ( I let him point that he
wants it, or i gently ask him when we are brushing teeth) I
give it to him. He walks around the upstairs with it, sucking
out the water I put on the brush. He doesn't really 'brush'
yet, but thats not realistic. As long as he is getting used to
the fact we do this after each meal, and he thinks its fun,
when he has the mental capacity to understand what brushing is,
he'll learn the right way to do it. So put down the brush on a
finger, let it rest for a while until you can put the fun back
in it for her! Don't worry, she'll do it eventually. You sound
like a great influence! Trust yourself )
I finally had some success ''brushing'' my daughter's teeth
at around 11 months when I made it part of the routine of
cleaning her up after meals. I wash her face and hands
with a washcloth, which she doesn't much enjoy, and then
give her teeth a quick rub with the cloth while I do this.
Usually I demonstrate on myself first. I don't know if this
would help you, but somehow my daughter seemed to
resist less when the toothbrushing was part of the mayhem
of trying to clean her up after a meal. I'm not too compulsive
about it and don't generally do a very thorough job-- but I
figure something has got to be better than nothing! When
she resists, I just skip it.
For my 8-month old, I carry her and let her watch me directly and
in the mirror while I brush my teeth (I use one of the
toothbrushes that they can't put in their mouths.) Then we get
her toothbrush, wet it, and she watches herself in the mirror.
She seems to enjoy it. Could be just that my baby is easy. I
don't try very hard to accomplish anything-the dentist told me
it's mostly to get them used to the idea.
I count to ten in a very focused way when doing anything my
son doesn't like. brushing teeth,Cutting fingernails,
brushing or washing hair. When I get to nine I go back
down to 1 and then When I'm done I say ''Ten'' with
excitement and he knows we're done. This may screw up
his counting ability, but it works. He waits really nicely.
Sometimes, now that he's older I sing the toothbrushing
''I brush, brush, brush my teeth
Brush them left to right
I brush them up and down
To keep them clean and white''
He reacts in the same way, waiting for it to be over.
I have to sing like I'm on Broadway , but whatever works, eh
I'm wondering how parents get their young toddlers to brush their
teeth. We've been trying to brush our little boy's teeth since
the first one came out at 6 months but it's not working! He
enjoys the activity and wants to brush his teeth when he sees us
brushing ours, but he usually just sucks on the toothbrush and
there's no actual brushing involved. I've tried holding on to
his lip and brushing, modeling, letting him do it...I'm just
afraid that his 7 or so teeth are not getting clean and that
they'll be a mess by the time he goes to his first dental
appointment. Any tips?
No cavities please!
We told my son when he was small that there were ''tweetle-beetles'' (don't remember
where we got the term from) on his teeth, and that we had to get them off. We then
brushed his teeth for him (I don't think young kids have the fine motor coordination to
do a decent job themselves). We made it kind of dramatic (''Oh, look, I see one in the
back! Open up so I can get it!'') and fun, and it became a part of the usual bedtime
routine that he liked.
You can let him play w/the toothbrush, but you're going to have
to do the brushing yourself for a loooong time to come. He's
going to have to get in the habit of saying aahhhh! My kids are 3
and 5, and although they initiate the brushing (wetting the
brush, putting toothpaste on, doing some initial brushing) we
still finish up the brushing to make sure there is actually some
cleaning getting done. Every night is ''kid's turn'' then ''mama's
turn'' or ''daddy's turn'' before teeth are considered brushed and
we can proceed with more fun nightly rituals (storytime).
we are in the same boat in terms of having a 1 year old who is sucking on the
toothbrush more than she is actually brushing. We too model and it works a bit but is
she brushing as effectively as she should - no! But she's only 1 and it's to be expected.
I wouldn't worry and instead get those tooth tissues or use a napkin and just wipe
down your child's teeth. I asked both our ped and my own dentist and that's what they
recommended doing and didn't seem to think it was a big deal that she wasn't
brushing, in fact, it's very age appropriate. Just be consistent and keep modeling and
wipe down those teeth!
Our dentists showed us this for our 2 yr old (now 3) and it works great for our 1 yr old
too: Have your child lay on your lap or cradled in one arm (so they look up at you).
With the head tilted back, the jaw tends to open a little. For the 3 yr old, it's great - I
can see the whole set of teeth and shine each one! For the little one, we just do what
we can. The dentist said that at that age, it's really more about getting into good
habits and it truly worked with our older daughter.
I don't think many 1-yr-olds like to have their teeth brushed!
You are not alone in) dealing with this! We tried kid-friendly
electric toothbrushes, letting him pick out the toothbrush,
etc...no avail. Finally, I decided that it would help my son if
he knew that the process had an ending, so I started singing a
little ''toothbrushing song'' (stealing the tune from one of his
favorite kiddie songs) every time we brush his teeth. Our rules
are that Mommy or Daddy sings the song and brushes his teeth,
after that, if he wants to, he can take a turn brushing. There
were certainly times that it was a struggle and he wouldn't open
his mouth for us. I still wedged the toothbrush in there and
brushed them, even though I couldn't see his teeth (telling him
the whole time, ''this would be a lot easier if Mommy could see
your teeth!'') He still sucks off the toothpaste at times, but I
figure that the toothpaste is the least important part of the
process anyway, so oh well.
the Singing Toothfairy
My 2-year-old son has the same habit of sucking on the toothbrush
instead of actually brushing. To get around this, we use 2 or 3
toothbrushes at once (one or two for his hands, and one for me).
That way I can get into his mouth and do some brushing motions
while he has fun with the extra brushes. It helped when we
started using baby toothpaste, made the process more exciting. My
dentist says that as long as I get the brush in contact with the
chewing surface of the teeth, it's good enough. For extra
assurance, you can rub a washcloth around the gums and teeth
while giving the child a bath, they usually don't mind that and
it's almost as good as brushing. Another tip from my dentist is
to keep brushing your child's teeth (instead of letting them do
the job) until they can sign their name legibly, i.e. age 4 or 5;
before that point, they don't have the dexterity to properly brush.
Teeth need care
you expect a one year old to brush independently AND adequately?
get real. My kids are 4 and 6 and I still floss and brush for
them every night. Then they get a turn to practice. They do their
own in the morning and my daughter's preschool has them brush
during the day. When my kids were as young as yours, they got a
choice: the easy way - they opened up and I chased critters all
over their mouths with a toothbrush while giving lots of
descriptive details about the critters' hair color, shiny
clothes, glittery fur. Or we could do it the hard way - they were
held down and screamed as I used the open mouth as my opportunity
to brush as well as I could. The hard way was not often the
One year old is way too young to do this well.
don't forget to floss
It will get easier shortly, as your child matures, then you'll hit the ''I do it myself'' stage,
which throws in another complication. To echo some very helpful advice that I
received here in the BPN - turning it into a game helped. Per the advice, I pretended
to find various wild animals in his mouth, and chase them around with a toothbrush or
a baby washcloth. (Gasp! I just saw a [name animal]! Let me catch it!). Sometimes the
animal was a ''sugar bug'' and he instinctively understood that Those needed to be
cleaned off his teeth. YouTube is another useful tool. Pre-screen and bookmark a
few videos that show other toddlers brushing their teeth. It shows them how to get
the toothbrush moving. There was somewhat recently, a great video of a sea lion
getting its teeth brushed by zookeepers. I also found some positive dentist experience
videos which were great preparation for our first dental check-up. Good luck.
Taking care of those baby teeth
It is extremely difficult to brush my daughter's teeth especially
because she insists on being independent. But I have found that
buying two toothbrushes in the same color (one for mama and one
for baby) helps. We brush our teeth together and after a couple
minutes it's her turn to brush mama's teeth and my turn to brush
hers. Which can be tricky but well worth it. I get to really
brush her teeth well and she get's to be distracted with my teeth.
My 14-month-old daughter hates to have
her teeth brushed and clamps down really hard so I can't do it.
She won't even cry b/c that means opening her mouth. She already
has 12 teeth (including 4 molars), so I think she really needs to
be brushing them. I've tried having her brush my teeth while I
brush hers, having her do it and then me do it and even trying to
make it a game. It's hard because she doesn't understand
reasoning yet like other people talked about in the archive. So,
I can't talk about cavities or even bribe her.
--don't want cavities
Try the Raffi song, Brush Your Teeth, and have her brush as you
sing along with Raffi. My 14-month old daughter loves it. We
start singing, ''When you wake up in the morning, it's quarter to
1, you want to have a little fun, you brush your teeth,ch-ch-ch-
chchchcchc...'' and my little daughter grins and looks for her
toothbrush. She'll even ask to brush her teeth at random times
of the day by putting her finger to her mouth and going ''ch-ch-
ch-ch...''. Not sure if this will work with your baby if they
already hate toothbrushing but it's worth a try. G'luck.
Mom of 14-month old who loves to brush
My son is also 14 months, although he only has 4 teeth so far... We
give him his tooth brush at some point each day and let him chew on it.
He loves it, and hopefully is getting used to the idea of
I'm not sure when we'll transition to making it more a part of his
routine. Maybe when he has more teeth!
This may not be the most educational advice, but the way we got
our kid to be really excited about brushing his teeth was by
buying a funny toothbrush and a Winnie the Pooh toothpaste. Now
he rushes to the bathroom to say ''hello'' to Winnie!! My dentist
also gave me some disposable dental floss that has dinosaurs and
other funny shapes that our kid loves.
This was one battle we decided was worth the fight. My (now 2
1/2) son would scream while one parent held him and the other
brushed and sang to him. We couldn't do a great job at first
but with the consistent message that we always brush teeth
before bedtime, my son is now pretty good at letting us brush.
It also worked to make up funny songs about things he loved
(e.g. Tinky Winky, Curious George, etc.)
It gets better!
16-month-old refuses to brush
I have a 16 month old son who refuses to let me brush
his teeth or to brush them himself. Any suggestions
on getting small children to brush their teeth?
for the mom who needs ideas for how her son will let her brush his teeth: we
have barney or another stuffed animal do it. just ask him which stuffed
animal (with arms to hold the brush) he wants. works for us.
Our son also resisted brushing his teeth, but we just kept trying every
night before bedtime, and now he asks to do it. A few things that helped:
-- Choice of toothbrushes (we found some with handles shaped like
-- Choice of toothpaste flavors (Tom's of Maine has some great ones)
-- Getting a stool for him to stand on at the sink so he could look in the
mirror & hold the brush under the tap
-- Brushing with him
An electric toothbrush worked magic for us as did bringing a favorite stuffed
or plastic animal along to 'model' brushing. Using words like 'say ahh' and
'eee' helps them position open their mouth rather than clamp it shut.
My husband has found a couple of things that work with our almost 16
m.o. daughter: (1) she likes to suck the water out of the toothbrush
bristles, so he'll scrub a little, dip in water, scrub a little more.
If that doesn't work he will (2) sit her across his lap, tickle her,
scrub, tickle her, scrub. She actually asks for more!
(It's amazing the weird things you do to appease a toddler!)
We created a silly ritual: zany songs that were sung only during
toothbrushing time. Nursery rhymes, Sesame Street songs,
whatever... the content didn't matter. It created enough of a
distraction that we sidestepped the power struggle issue.
However, I'm writing this a couple of hours before my 3-year-old goes
off to the dentist to have her 4th filling put in, so I'll add that
even if you do have a power struggle, it's still worth getting those
little teeth clean. All of my daughter's cavities are in the front, on
the teeth that she had before we started regular brushing. With my
younger daughter we'll do two things differently: 1) brush those
suckers as soon as they appear 2) take her to the dentist around age 2
rather than following the pedi's recommendation that we wait until age
3. If I'd known how low-key and non-traumatic the first dental exam
(w/ Dr. Meeta Doshi, whom I highly recommend) was going to be, I'd
have done it a lot sooner.
I had the same teeth brushing issues with my toddler. What ended up working
best for us was when I asked her to say "ahhhhh!" when opening her mouth big
so I could brush her molars, and "teeeeee!" for teeth so that I could brush
the front of her teeth. This seemed to work a lot better than holding her
on my lap while she cried (even though this allowed me to get to her molars
it wasn't pleasant for either of us!). I guess making lots of sounds made it
more fun for her because she was interracting with me while I made the same
I also applied the advice I read on the advice on the network of letting her
brush her teeth while I hold the toothbrush. Lastly, I rewardeed her for
letting me do the first brushing by putting more baby toothpaste on and
letting her do it herself. Teeth brushing is a mostly positive experience
now thank goodness. good luck!
Some common ingredients in toothpaste can cause irritation to tender gums.
Sodium laurel (and laureth) sulfate and peppermint can do this. Since there are
still strawberries around, you might rub a cut strawberry on his teeth (or let
him do it) to get the feel of something smaller in his mouth. Strawberries can
whiten and clean, interestingly. Also, a really cool children's brush is
available from the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation (1-800-FOODS-4-U)
developed by Joseph Phillips, DDS. It one they CAN chew and thereby clean their
Brushing teeth is fun! Sit on the floor with him in front of you, facing
in the same direction. Then have him lie back on the floor with his head
in your lap. Then he has to roar like a lion, or a crocodile, or a
dinosaur, or . . . . Sometimes you have to guess who is roaring. (Roaring
requires the mouth to be wide open while you brush furiously.) Sometimes
you're very scared that a bear is going to roar at you and you're ALWAYS
scared when it happens!
We are having a difficult time brushing our 18 month old's
teeth. He never really liked to brush but now he just refuses
to open his mouth. We typically try this right before bedtime.
He watches me brush my teeth and then I attempt to brush his.
Any advice about brushing toddler's teeth would be greatly
appreciated! We used to use a finger brush, then changed to a
toddler brush when he seemed to not like the finger brush
anymore. I am just worried about caries/cavities and plaque.
For us, it's important to be consistent and upbeat about brushing. My
old son brushes his teeth morning and bedtime, and to him it's a fun
game. I invite
him into the bathroom in a fun way and then we stand together and play
stomping games while he chews away on his little toothbrush (which needs
replaced frequently because of all the chewing!) Sometimes he walks
house with it, humming. I always ask him if he brushed every tooth -
front, side, etc
- and this adds another level of challenge to the game. He doesn't like
to let me
brush them thoroughly for him, but I figure that letting him do it
himself is better
than fighting about it, or not brushing at all!
We also had trouble with our 2 1/2 year old son. When I took my kids to
she suggested that to brush their teeth better you shoud do it on your
back. Their head is supported by your one arm and then brush with the
position in combination with we play a game where I say did you have
Let me get that off your teeth, I proceed to go through a list of food
they ate that day
and brush it off of their teeth as we are going through the list. It
sounds silly but it
works great for both of my kids. good luck
What we do is play a super-exciting tooth-brushing game
everyday!!! (emphasis on drummed up excitement) This is in the
morning, where everyone who is in the house goes into the
bathroom and brushes their own teeth The adults do their own
teeth well, the 16 month olds and toddlers mostly chew on their
brushes and look at us to see how we're doing it.
At the end, the adult very gently does a little brushing on the
kids' teeth, adn we stop when the kids want to be done. The
point here is to keep it very positive for the child, not
having them be traumatized or learn to hate tooth-brushing, or
feel pain. Basically, we let go of the idea that their teeth
are going to be perfectly clean now, with the long-term goal of
establishing a good habit and positive associations with this
At nighttime, same thing, and use a SOFT wet cloth to gently
rub your child's teeth a little better. I know of someone who
plays ''dentist'' at night, making sounds of the dental tools and
they practice going to the dentist in their bathroom. The child
asks to play dentist after brushing each night.
It's all in how you sell it to your kids...
Not sure if this would help but ever since my son started
understanding things, I told him the story of Karius and Bactus
:). It's Norwegian or German, not sure which but basically tells
the story of two boys who come into your mouth and start using
their tools to dig little holes in your teeth if you don't brush.
I actually don't even know the whole story and have been
improvising but it as worked magic! As soon as he hears about it
and opens his mouth for brushing. You can change the names too. I
find the idea wonderful. Here is a link to the German cartoon -
old, old, old -
With both my girls, I reached the end of my rope trying to get
them to cooperate, gave them what I thought was a
threat/ultimatum and ended up initiating a fun game. With my
first, I told her that if she cooperated I could do it gently,
but if she didn't I would have to be rough. ''So do you want
gentle or rough?'' I asked, I thought rhetorically. ''Rough!'' she
answered. So I made a silly/mean face and made lots of
pirate-type sounds (ARRRGG!) and brushed her teeth (gently) as if
I were being rough. I gave her the same choice (gentle or rough)
for many weeks, and she usually chose rough.
4 years later, I reached the end of my rope with my 2nd child and
threatened to throw her down on the bed and sit on her to brush
her teeth if she didn't cooperate. ''Okay!'' she said excitedly.
I did. After that, I gave her the choice to brush teeth in the
bathroom or on the bed, and many times she ran to the bed and lay
down with her arms at her side waiting for me to come sit on her
and brush her teeth! (It helps that she is still using toddler
toothpaste that she doesn't have to spit out.)
whatever works to get their teeth brushed
Are you still there?
I had a tooth brushing resister. Now I have a cooperative little
partner - but it was tough going.
We have lots of games you might try.
Who do we have here?
I named all the teeth (I named all the people we saw that day in
order or families all together in one area of the mouth or made
up names) different each time - I'd greet each one as I brushed
it and say they were welcome for the bath. Some of the younger
teeth needed to be chased about the mouth.
A Great day for Brushing:
There was the NASCAR style pit stop/golf commentator where I did
a running commentary about the style and speed of the team:
a: ''clearly a team who's time has come - look at that floss angel''
b: ''yes those of you unfamiliar with competitive toothbrushing
are in for a treat...''
(we'd set a timer and try to beat it - The electric toothbrush
wants 2 minutes so if I turned it off for
spitting/breaks/disputes whathaveyou it would help keep the
overall brushing time up and the other timer would give us
motivation to get back to work.
I'd pretend to grab and scrape off particular bits of food and
mock disgust at the build-up of stuff based on the things she ate
''What is that!?!? it is reddish and pink (grunt and ''tug'')?''
''Strahhbwy'' (mouth full of flosser)
We'd get through an inventory of the day's foods. Another neat
way to reflect on the day.
Take any song or tune (marches are good) and throw in flossing
and brushing and teeth characters/themes.
World in the mouth:
Narrate a fantastic trip through and amongst the mouth.
Professional Tooth Care Person:
Invent an imaginary Tooth Care professional and be that
character. Or some character the kid knows about. Kid knocks on
the door and you introduce yourself and begin the appointment. We
have a bunch of different ones and she likes to pick. They have
some crazy beliefs and small differences in style, but they are
uniformly interested in their profession and can go on and on
about all manner of nonsense (many do do not know about the
others) It gets quite complicated.
Involves lots of face making on the brusher's part at the dirty
filthy teeth, gums etc! YUCK! half way through they aren't the
best looking teeth but they might be redeemable with some work/ a
fixer basically then they become dangerously glamorous and shiny
and hard to look at (The key test of your style on this one is
that the ''staring at gleaming teeth'' look should be
distinguishable from the ''Staring at filthy teeth'' look. If you
have trouble I suggest a adding a shudder to the latter, but I
consider that over-acting and a bit of a crutch...)
Finally, do check that the taste of the tooth paste is ok with
your kid. I really hate some flavors and so did my kid. ALSO
those Reach brand flossers (with the snap-in hoops) are pricey
but AWESOME! The long handle keeps your GIGANTIC hands out of
there and the 90 degree offset hoop puts you in a very graceful
position. Really. I use them too and it has turned around my
tooth care story (different post I suppose - but really it makes
it so easy you'll likely do two good passes rather than one OK
Oh dear. We've still not gotten our 18 month old to accept toothbrushing. She's
fascinated to be held while we're brushing our teeth and to help hold on to the
toothbrush, but closes her mouth and shakes her head when we try to brush hers.
We'd tried the stubby finger glove toothbrushes with her around 9 months but she
clamped down painfully over and over. We keep trying but are losing faith.... Does
anyone have suggestions?
Also, our pediatrician has suggested taking her to a dentist but I can't imagine her
staying still for long. Any suggestions?
She's got gorgeous teeth and so far I've been unconcerned about cavities from
breastmilk pooling in the mouth as she drifts off to sleep at night. Somehow it
doesn't ring true. Does anyone have personal experience to suggest whether I am
right to be unconcerned or whether I am naively or dangerously underestimating
toothy grin toddler's mommy
Our 25 month old is going to have IV sedation for root canals on her two
molars next week. She too had ''gorgeous'' teeth until she was about 19
when two brown spots suddenly appeared which rapidly turned into deep
has been a passionate nurser (days, nights) but there seems to be no
whether this is a factor or not. We made efforts at toothbrushing before
never willing to be very aggressive. I have no idea whether this would have
we'd started it earlier, but I can tell you that since we found out about
the decay we
have been military about toothbrushing, and our experience has been that we
had to hold her down and brush while she cried (yikes!) a couple of times,
then she has readily accepted it (''it just tickles!''). If we had done
this earlier, at least
we would have one less reason to blame ourselves (we try not to, but we do
that she has to go through this and sure wish we could have done something
prevent it!!!!) Just think - which is worse, sedation and root canals or
force? From where I sit right now there is no comparison :(
I read in Mothering magazine a while back that it's not the breastmilk that
cavities. HOWEVER, breastfeeding children who are eating SOLID FOOD need
their teeth brushed/wiped WELL right before bedtime, because the
combination of the
breastmilk and the food is a dangerous combination for little ones' teeth.
So far no cavities in our 2 toddler household
You just mention breast milk, but since your child is 18 months
she's also eating regular food. All of that can cause cavities,
especially things like raisins. So teaching them good dental
hygiene is important, and a challenge as they start to play
power games at this age. I know someone whose daughter had
cavities by age 2, and another friend's daughter had a root
canal at age 5. Our pediatric dentist showed us a hold so that
he could exam our son's mouth at age 14 months after a fall.
Yes, he cried and screamed, but that was over as soon as we
released him and it's just one of those things you have to do
for their own good. You're either going to pay a price now, or
later when they get cavities. As long as you're calm and
comforting, they'll be ok. We also used this hold at home to
brush our son's teeth when he started refusing to let us do it,
no matter what game or songs we did. Each time we would tell
him, "we're going to brush your teeth, and we can do it the hard
way or the easy way." If he wouldn't let us, we'd say, ok, we're
going to do it the hard way and then we'd hold him down like the
dentist showed us. That lasted about a week and after that he
would ask for the easy way. Once the teeth brushing because part
of the everyday routine, we can just ask him what song he wants
while we brush his teeth.
The hold is with 2 people seated and facing each other. You hold
your child facing you as if you're going to hug, and with
his/her legs on each side of you. You lay her down on both of
your legs and hold her hands still in your hands and use your
arms to pin the legs. The other person puts a finger between the
upper and lower jaw in the back, where the molars will grow in,
to hold the mouth open and brush. It sounds traumatic, but they
soon learn that it's one of those things they just don't have a
My toddler (second child, actually!) wouldn't let us brush his teeth,
Ever. He was also a night nurser. Around the age of 2 I noticed his
teeth looked pretty bad, and finally took him to the dentist: 4 front teeth
had practically rotted and needed caps, and 4 molars needed root
canals and fillings! AARRGGHH! All these fillings required anesthesia,
but we are very happy that it was taken care of and done well.
A few points:
- Pediatric dentists (we use two excellent practices, Wampler-Katsura
(Berkeley) and Matsuishi (El Cerrito)) know how to examine a very
young toddler's teeth -- it is not the sustained, long appt. you might
it is. I'd advise going NOW before any problems get worse.
- Night nursing, which also often causes the milk to pool in the mouth,
may or may not be a culprit. I recently read that the milk itself is not
culprit in decay, but it can cause decay when mixed with bits of solid
food (present in the mouth when you haven't brushed it away). In any
case, neither of the dentists I mentioned wanted me to stop nursing, but
they did advise to either have some water after nursing, or try to brush
(yeah right! In the middle of the night?). I just cut it out entirely
was interfering with my sleep too much by that point.
- Cut out juice if you can! Our son drank way too much juice.
- Keep trying to brush. In fact, the dental visit was helpful about that --
son sort of listened to the dentist when he talked about brushing (but
too, my son was older than 18 mos.)
- Genetics seems to play a role: I have lots of cavities, and my older
has ''sticky plaque'' that causes cavities despite flossing and brushing.
And if your child's teeth look great, they may be great! A dental visit
confirm this. Good luck.
You'll probably get many responses to this. It is SO common to
have problems getting a toddler to accept toothbrushing. My son
is 3.5 and we struggled and struggled with it. Sometimes, he
still rejects it.
I used to be really worried about it - he seemed to be building
up plaque and/or stains, and I was worried about cavities
(especially because I also nursed him to sleep, so I wondered
about the breastmilk pooling in his mouth). But we took him to
his first dental visit a few months ago and he didn't have any
cavities at all. He DID accompany me to my dental visits, and my
husbands, since he was 1.5. I agree that a 1.5 year old who
already doesn't like toothbrushing is too squirmy to actually get
examined by a dentist, but when we went, the hygenist would
always ask if she could look in his mouth as well. Sometimes he
let her and sometimes he didn't.
Anyway - to get him to let us brush his teeth, we made up lots
and lots of different silly games, songs, etc. Something would
work for a week and then he'd refuse again, and we'd have to come
up with something else. These games included ''Let me see if you
have any monkeys in your mouth - do you?''; ''Can you roar like a
lion?''; tickling; a silly song about someone named ''Gargle
McGarrigal''; asking to see how beautiful his teeth were, and then
making a huge deal about how beautiful they are while I brush
them; asking to count his teeth; having him tell me about what
color worms were in there, and what their names were, and then
trying to brush them out of there; same thing, but with ants;
looking to see if Monster Fred is in there, then asking as I
brush ''Monster Fred, what are you doing in there! Don't run
away, come back here!''; asking if it's a ''cooperating day'' - and
then praising him when he does cooperate -- you get the idea.
We've gotten really creative with it, and sometimes it still
doesn't work. The only things I can tell you are that humor
works much better than forcing, and that it has gotten much
better now than when he was younger.
Unfortunately I have lots of experience with early childhood
caries (the most infectious disease in kids younger than 5).
Cavities are caused by the strep mutans bacteria, not by
breastfeeding (if so, then all mammals would have decay). I
was literally watching my 2 yr old's teeth dissolve (a tooth in
two weeks) - he's had 5 teeth pulled and 3 crowns. My older
son has a bridge, having had his top 4 teeth removed at 2 (fell
& broke them but they were decayed). I had cavities filled
every 2 mths most last year, had 2 root canals, 2 crowns.
Since beginning the regimen below for my kids, we haven't had
any decay since November.
If your daughter's teeth look good, you're probably okay.
Dentist visit won't hurt, don't get intimidated: night nursing
doesn't cause cavities, sugar residue plus the bacteria does.
For brushing, I suggest you gradually get onto a routine. You
want brushing to become like hand-washing - Something We Just
Do. Don't traumatize her, just introduce it slowly. Plan to
brush her teeth for her until she learns to write; most kids
don't have the dexterity to properly brush until then. Some
parents have the child lie on his/her back; you can see the
You can buy pouched wet wipes for teeth, called ''Spiffies'' at
www.drraysproducts.com. Great for keeping in your diaper bag
and you can let her chew on them if she won't let you brush her
Here is a good list:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/veryyoungkidsteeth/. (where I
learned about the following regimen):
To prevent decay:
1. Brush before you eat. The bacteria in your mouth need
sugar from the food you eat. It's not until the two meet that
cavities are formed. When you remove them before eating, it
takes 24 hours for them to recolonize. If you eat and then
brush, the bacteria have already created the acid that damages
2. Brush before bed and if she eats anything, brush again.
Our saliva helps remineralize our teeth during the night but if
food residue is on our teeth, the bacteria have all night to
3. Xylitol helps prevent cavities. You can buy xylitol mints,
toothpaste, gum, and ''sugar'' for baking (www.xylitolnow.com).
Feel free to email me.
My daughter is 18 months old and we are having the most difficult time
brushing her teeth. We try to get her to do it herself with our help but she
resists. When we do it it for her it is a major battle that ends in screaming
and crying. The only thing she is interested in is eating the toothpaste off
her toothbrush. She has most of her teeth now and i can see food
getting stuck in her molars. I'm getting concerned. Any suggestions
would be most appreciated.
We had the same experience with my son. Toothbrushing was a
nightmare, until I got playful one night, came up to my son with the
toothbrush, and told him (with a suitably dramatic expression) that I
going to ''get the tweetle-beetles out of his teeth'' (based on a
from a favorite Dr. Seuss book at the time). He thought this was
hilarious, and opened his mouth quite willingly to let me brush.
And I didn't use toothpaste for quite some time. Even now, at 3, I use
amount considerably smaller than a pea for him to brush with, because
he still ends up swallowing it all.
I too would like advice about this - trying to brush my 19-mo-
old's teeth is a power struggle every time.
I talked to my mother-in-law about it a couple of days ago...
she raised 4 kids between 42 and 52 years ago. She said that
in her day, people didn't even expect to start brushing kids'
teeth until they had all of them, around 2 years old. None of
her kids had regular tooth brushing until then and all of them
had healthy teeth (to this day my husband has never had a
My guess with my son (and I suspect your daughter too, since
she's the same age roughly) is that he is going through a do-it-
myself phase, and at the same time his mouth hurts because
those eye-teeth are coming through. I stopped with the power
struggles and have just been closing him in the bathroom with
me when I brush, and letting him carry around his 2
toothbrushes until he's ready to give them up. Sometimes I let
him ''brush'' my teeth with them too. As a backup, when I am
wiping his face after meals and when he lets me, I use a
washcloth to wipe off his teeth as much as possible - he has
less of a problem with that than with me sticking a toothbrush
just keep trying, and most importantly, show your toddler how
you brush your teeth all the time. don't press it too much, but
if she lets you brush 10 seconds, praise her. we don't always
get a full brushing out of our 18mo old, but occasionally do,
and she now asks to brush her teeth--and the other day was
interested in flossing! we always give her the toothbrush w/ a
little of the baby toothpaste on it, and mostly she just eats it
(unfortunately, she seems to enjoy brushing more w/ toothpaste,
and is no longer satisfied w/o it). then i ask if i can help a
little, and i usually sing songs, make funny noises, give her
lots of praise if she lets me do it. but we're not always
successful. my dentist also said just wiping w/ a washcloth is
good at this age. after most meals she gets a wet washcloth to
suck & chew on.
My husband and I have started the ritual of having our 20 month
old son brush our teeth first before we brush his. We guide him
to where we want our teeth brushed so that he'll know what to
expect when it's his turn. That and a yummy natural toothpaste
helps as well. Hope this works for you too.
Having fun brushing
Try different toothbrushes. Take yur child to the store and let
her pick hers out. My son insisted on having the same one my
husband has- an electric one- same color everything. Everynight
we brush our teeth together. I got him so Training toothpaste
with no flouride that tastes like fruit and he enjoys having
that as he was insisting I give him my toothpaste. Sometimes he
just won't do it and I let it go figuring one night won't cause
too much harm. I think it's all about habit though and not
making too big a deal of things. My friend has a song she
always sings as her toddler brushes his teeth. They also have
books and movies about these things you might try those. Good
I know it's hard to brush an 18th month old's teeth, I have
one. I started getting her used to me cleaning her teeth with
a wet washcloth first when she got her lst tooth at about
9months. We then graduated to the infant toothbrush (that
little rubber thing you put on your finger)and she really likes
it. One thing that most people don't know is that you don't
need to use the toothpaste. The important thing is getting the
plaque off, so if you can even wipe them with a wet washcloth
that is fine too. It only takes about 15 sec. to brush an
18month old's teeth. If she likes the toothpaste great!
Continue to use it, really work on trying to do it for her, too
many parents think that a child is capible of brushing their
own teeth before they really have the dexterity to do it
properly. Most kids need their parents to brush and floss
their teeth until at least age 5. Some even longer. If you
think it's hard to do it now, just think of what it will be
like when she is 3 if she doesn't get used to it now. Good
This is a totally normal phase. Hold her down and brush. Hey,
at least when she's screaming, her mouth is open -- this is
better than the clamping shut many kids that age do!
It may seem cruel, but to me this is one of those things that is
like getting into a carseat. It just isn't optional. And
she'll outgrow this within a few more months. Really! You can
certainly look for ways to make it less painful for all
concerned. What eventually worked for us was to invent
different ways of brushing and ask our son if he wanted
the ''silly way'', the ''upside down way'', etc. tonight. (This
came about by accident when one night Daddy asked whether we
were going to brush his teeth the easy way, or were we going to
have to do it the hard way?) Now (at 3 years) he comes up with
new ones on his own and will ask for the ''fire engine way'' or
the ''road construction way''.
I have a friend whose daughter could be persuaded to cooperate
with almost anything if Mom could convince her that's how a
princess would do it. (''Are those princess manners, Jenna?''
would stop a tantrum in its tracks.)
18-month-old won't let me brush her teeth
My daughter's pediatrician encouraged me (along with various parenting
books) to start brushing my child's teeth by the time she was a year old.
She liked it for a while, but now flat out refuses to have anything to do
with a toothbrush. I have tried a couple of approaches (read a book about
it, let her brush mine, etc.), but it hasn't helped. So, how big of a deal
is this? She is 18 months old now and I don't want her little teeth
(working on #15-16 now) decaying at such a tender age. Yes, she still
takes a bottle. I dilute the milk most of the time trying to get her off
of it little by litte, and encourage undiluted milk in a cup. What have
other parents experienced? How did you get your little ones to brush? And
at what age did you start to encourage them?
Thanks for the input!
Tooth brushing: Sit on the floor. Have him lie on the floor with his
legs away from you. Put his head between your knees and have him
growl (with the mouth open of course.) Start brushing! He can try to
scare you just when you think you're safe from the animal. Or you can
guess what kind of animal is growling. Etc., etc. The game changes
as needed. It seems as if doing the top teeth first is best because
he won't need to spit. Kim at 10 STILL wants me to brush her teeth
for her sometimes.
My brother is our dentist. I have observed him cleaning his kids'
teeth and picked up on this "game" for brushing our daughter's teeth.
We say that there are cavity bugs in there and we have to get them out
with the special brush. Many variations on this game can be played,
including washing the cavity bugs down the drain, pretending that the
cavity bugs can talk and are trying to trick you by jumping to the
next tooth, in which case you say you have to get that tooth with the
brush too. Then they all end up getting successfully brushed out of
the mouth. Hurray! Another victory for you and your child! Also, my
brother the dentist says that toothpaste is not essential, so maybe
leaving it out will be better than not brushing at all. Fluoride can
be either supplemented or met by drinking 8 oz. of tap water a day
(EBMUD water, that is. Not all municipal water is fluoridated). Good
Our son went through the difficult brushing phase at about 18 months.
We found a couple of things that worked. First, we changed
toothpastes. Now that he's 3.5 years, he still tells me Tom's of
Maine is yukky-kind and Colgate is good-kind! We brush his teeth by
having him sit on the bathroom vanity and put his feet in the sink. I
wrap my left arm around his head and cup my left hand under his
chin. I brush with my right hand. If he's crying, I let the water run
on his feet, which serves as a good distraction. Every time we brush I
sing the A-B-C song one time - always stopping the brushing as soon as
the song is over. He can expect when the brushing will stop, and I
can change the pace of the song depending on how well things are
going. We recently started brushing his teeth while he's in the
bathtub. Of course, he's a little more cooperative now. Finally,
while he was going through the resisting phase, I mentioned it to his
pediatrician; she said "Oh well, he'll back into the brushing soon." -
and he did! Joyce
We had another variation on the "game" approach that worked well with both
our kids. Brushing the outside of the teeth with the mouth closed makes
the cheeks bulge out--we found a chipmunk! Brushing the front teeth--again
with the mouth closed-- makes them look like bucked teeth--we found Bugs
Bunny! Brushing the chewing surfaces of the teeth needs the mouth wide
open--we found Monstro the Whale! Getting the inside of the front teeth
requires the head to be tilted back with mouth wide open--we found a
hippopotemus! It got so all I'd have to do is say, "Where's Bugs Bunny?"
and my children would immediately "assume the position" and I'd ohh and ahh
over how cute Bugsy was looking that day.
Weird as it sounds, we all actually looked forward to brushing our teeth!
We have just got a child-size toothbrush for our 15-month old, and he
seems to like it, although his dental hygiene at this point consists of
running around the house chewing on it and risking impalement. My
pediatrician says that's fine for this age (the chewing, not the
impalement). Your son is a bit older, but I wouldn't push the issue too
much. Let him do what he's doing for a bit, and try again with some
low-key brushing in a week or so, when he may have let his guard down.
And I'd talk to your pediatrician when you next go in. Maybe a
different kind of toothbrush or no toothpaste or an electric brush or
what-have-you would do the trick.
In my daughter's (19 months old) last visit, the dentist found a
very early stage cavity on her front tooth. The dentist
advised us not to fill it. She asked us to pay more attention
and monitor the decay. She hopes that we can last until the
when the teeth falls out for the permanent one, which won't be
until when my daughters is 5 or 6. I want to get your
experience on the following:
1. Is it common to leave cavities not filled? Is it more
likely for her to get other cavities if it is left not filled?
Have any of you had experience where you were able to manage the
cavities until the baby tooth fell out for the permanent ones?
2. Do you have any advice on how to get a toddler to brush
their teeth willingly? We have tried different tricks: electric
brush, putting in her favorite DVD, brushing together, songs,
dance, games... My daughter hates brushing her teeth. Now that
we have to get even more aggressive in brushing her teeth, I
need to get more creative on how to get some quality time in
brushing each of her teeth thoroughly. I'd appreicate your
When my son had just turned two, we discovered a small cavity
in the middle of his two front teeth. One dentist told me to
get it filled immediately, but two others urged us to wait.
Since he was terrified of the dentist at that point, and the
cavity was so small, we waited, cut down on culprits like sippy
cup juice ( I guess sippy cups ''bathe'' teeth in juice), and
used a nightly flouride paste that Dr. Lady Fatima Pineda
(Oakland & San Lorenzo) gave us. We were able to wait nine more
months until it needed to be filled. Dr. Pineda let my husband
stay right with our son during the procedure, and he was able
to get through it with no pain medication- amazing!!! (At 24
months, I was frantically thinking he'd have to be sedated.)She
has excellent pediatric credentials and was very gentle. I have
also heard very good things about Alameda Pediatric Dentistry.
I was able to get him to stay very still during
brushing/flossing by saying ''Hey! WOW! I didn't know there was
a... (bulldozer/ giraffe/ giraffe driving a bulldozer/
whatever) in your mouth! Let me see that!''
Been there too
I had a dentist tell me the same thing. No need to fill it,
just do a better job brushing.
At about the same time, my dental hygienist told me the story
of how she would have to pin her sons to the floor to brush and
floss their teeth...for years. And they hated it then, and
thank her for it now, because they don't have cavities.
I did not want to have a constant fight over teeth brushing
either, but I also did not want her to go through what I went
through: multiple visits to the dentist for enormous fillings
because I didn't brush my teeth when I was young and my parents
didn't do it either (something I have not forgiven them for).
And I am cheap and don't want to pay for something like
fillings. So based on my hygienist's advice, and my own
experience, we became meticulous brushers of my child's teeth.
We talked to her about how we have to get ''the cavity bugs'' out
every night, and about my own experience at the dentist (I had
a horrible mean dentist as kid named Dr. Clap who liked to
inflict pain on small children). I talked about what it was
like to have your teeth drilled. I also bought a Dr. Seuss book
(The Tooth Book?) about brushing teeth and read it often to
her. And I would fight with her about brushing teeth (oh and we
brush twice a day, floss at night). And I would take away
privileges from time to time. But we also would sing songs to
her to try to make it fun. We would try basically everything.
And the truth is that if you are committed (and your partner is
too if you have one because you have to both be enrolled in
this), then your child will give in and let you brush their
Try buying an electric tooth brush because they do a much
better job than you can.
And we still go to the same dentist because he was right. Now
she is almost six, she still has no fillings or cavities, and
she lets us brush and floss her teeth every night. Her 16
month old brother is following in her footsteps only now he
cries for his toothbrush when he sees it.
The Tooth Police
is your daughter drinking tap water? Local tap water has
flouride in it. My now adult son has never, ever had one cavity.
So first you might consider flouride sources, second, whether
or not the cavity is caused by what your daughter is
Obviously, dental hygiene is terribly important. There are many
toothpastes available now that are more ''pleasant'' to children --
orange, tootie-fruity, flavors etc may be helpful to you in
getting your girl to brush. In addition, you could have a
rewards program -- everytime she brushes her teeth to your
approval (getting all the way to the back, brushing back and
front of teeth etc) will garner her a special reward. Maybe
every day she does that once (to start), she gets something
special. When she does it twice, she gets a better reward. The
reward should be something relatively immediate (she's too young
for delayed gratification). You've clearly tried all the
obvious, like special tooth brushes, etc. but perhaps there's
something she likes especially well that could entice her to
willing brush on her own, even if it's a food that is bad for
her teeth (hey, at least she's brushed them! What if she gets
the reward before she brushes -- the brushing eliminates the
negs of the food?? Just a thought).
My son responds to the authority of others. So when my dentist
told him that he had to brush for one minute, he got it. I got
him a toothbrush with a timer - a little bulb in the handle
that flickers for one minute. You might try that with your
daughter - get the dentist to lay down the law for her.
My son just turned 2 and refuses to brush his teeth or to let
us brush them. He is terrifyed of having a toothbrush put into
his mouth. He has other sensory issues such as getting sticky
food on his hands etc and we are working through those but the
tooth brushing issues are a real problem. Has anyone had this
problem and how do you get them to brush their teeth or let
someone else do it for them without holding them down and
forcing them to open their mouth. I don't want to tramatize
him but am at my wit's end as to how to deal with this. Some
people have told us to not worry about it that they are just
baby teeth. Has anyone else had this problem. Will his teeth
be full of cavities? He does not eat sweets.
Hi there. This is quite a common problem for this age group. I
have a couple of suggestions. First, there is a website with lots
of suggestions at:
Second, if none of those toothbrush ''tricks'' work- i suggest just
trying to wipe them with a cotton ball instead. It can often be
helpful for the really stubborn kids that just won't let a
toothbrush in there. And yes it is important to brush his teeth
even though they are just baby teeth-- so that the permanent
teeth have a healthy place to grow into later. Hope this helps.
What worked for me was my son's favorite character. I took him
to the store with me & I was like, look at all of the cool
toothbrushes & toothpastes. He likes spiderman so he picked a
spiderman toothbrush & a spiderman tube of toothpaste & has been
brushing every since.
My son who is 2 years old is into ''I want to do it all by
myself'' stage. So, he would not let me brush his teeth and does
it himself. But of course, he can't do it properly and I worry
that he will have cavity because he's not brushing it right. Is
there any suggestion for this stage?
I made the same decision with my oldest and lived to regret it...she did get a
cavity that required filling at age 2. After that, I came up with all sorts of
tricks....taking turns, singing little ditties ''brush those little chompers....'',
telling an elaborate fairy tell about a little girl whose parents let her decide
when to brush her teeth (it doesn't end prettily for the little girl), and then
when she was a bit older, ''tooth trolls'' were regularly spotted lurking around
our house with their chisels and picks waiting for some little kid's teeth to
be dirty enough to drill into. Oh, and yes, a few times I had to brush them
while she screamed (at least her mouth was open wide!). Anyway, now that's
she's six and again had a cavity after I''d allowed her to brush her own teeth for
a year or so, we've gone back to some of our old rituals and we both really
mom to 3
Oh yes! We used that as a vehicle to (mildly) teach some
turn-taking. We told her that she would get a turn ''all by
myself'' and that one of us would also get a turn, ensuring that
some actual teeth-brushing would happen. We then asked her
whether she would like her turn first or last. If she chooses to
go first, we have her set a digital timer (she ''believes'' the
timer if she sets it!) for some amount of time, like 2 minutes,
otherwise she would sit there and suck water off the toothbrush
Two suggestions, one that worked for my son when he was two, and one that works
now that he's three.
As a two-year-old, I told him there were ''tweetle-beetles'' in his mouth (got it from
a Dr. Seuss book, a stroke of desperate inspiration), and that he'd missed a few, I
had to get them. Made a big, laughing game out of ''going to get the tweetle-
beetles''. Worked until a few months ago.
When he started insisting he could get all the tweetle-beetles himself, I had the
dentist inform him, on our last visit, that mommy must have a turn, every time he
brushes his teeth, until he was 5 years old. The citing of authority approach is
working well for now. We'll see what's next...
The deal I made with my son is that he gets to brush during the day, but I brush
them at night. We have done this for years -- no cavities. Good luck.
Our daughter (now 4.5) was the same way. Our solution was to let her
brush her teeth in the morning and to let her dad or me do it at night.
I really thought this was the best compromise, until at 3 her dentist
discovered a small cavity which he decided to not treat because it
probably wouldn't get much worse. She is now 4.5 and will be having a
mini root canal on that ''little cavity.''
I wish we'd thought harder of more ways to make brushing teeth fun and
had insisted on doing it ourselves.
I need ideas on how to get my son to brush his teeth. We do have a
nightly ritual of standing at the sink with our toothbrushes --
I brush my own teeth and he sucks the toothpaste (less than a dab)
off of his. That's the extent of his technique. When I try to get
in there and brush his teeth he clamps up his mouth or sticks out his
tongue so I can't even get to the molars. Any ideas? I am really
concerned because he still nurses during the night (that's another
issue to be resolved...)
Sit cross-legged on the floor with your kids' head in your lap facing
away. Then brush! Do the top teeth first because then there isn't
as much of a need to spit. He meanwhile growls like a bear or a tiger
or an elephant or an alligator or ... etc. You have to guess what
what animal it is. Sometimes you get very scared. Sometimes you say
you hope there aren't any alligators around tonight because you don't
want to be scared. Squealing and jumping in fright are fun too.
Etc., etc. Meanwhile keep brushing.
We kept this up evenings for at least 5 years. He got to brush in the
Here are a couple of Toothbrushing Tricks that have worked with our
kids. Remember there's always something that your child wants from
you, so everytime you go to brush, say, "okay, we'll --read your bedtime
story-- as soon as we finish brushing."
As with most kid struggles, it helps to keep the task at hand fun,
making it a game. Keep a smile on your face during encouragement:
1. Blame the dentist. "Remember, the dentist says we have to brush
twice a day."
2. Take turns counting to 10: "Okay, you did a great job, now it's
Daddy's (or Mommy's) turn."
3. Or counting the "tooth bugs." "Oh no! The toothbug ran to the top
teeth... now the tooth bug is in the molars. Phew, I got it!"
4. You can replace "tooth bugs" with any character that the child is
into-- dinosaurs, tinkerbell, teletubbies ("Now how did that -blank-
get into your little mouth?"
5. Take him/her to the dentist with you. Have toys to play on the
floor while you are being examined/cleaned. Ask the dentist to say a
word about brushing or give your child a toothbrush.
6. We found that board books about going to the dentist were
extremely helpful before that first visit. We started at 2 years, so
that's just around the corner for your son.
I have a 24 month old - he's been to the dentist twice. At both trips
(once with me, once with my husband) the dentist has showed us
different techniques for brushing our son's teeth. The best way he's
told us - that works when Sergio won't easily let us "help" him brush
- is for my husband and I to sit facing each other in chairs and to
have Sergio lay with his head in one of our laps and body in the other
lap. Then which ever of us has his head will stick our finger along
the outside and to the back of his mouth, hooked behind his molars so that he
can't bite us and can't bite down either, then we brush. We haven't had to do
this very often though, as Sergio is usually pretty agreeable to having us
help him. We'll let him brush them first, and then we go over and check them.
I have a selection of four toothbrushes for my 2-y.o. daughter
(different colors, one with a happy face, etc.) and she gets to choose
which one to use each time. I run the brush across the top of the
toothpaste (maximun twice per session), just so she gets the flavor
and she mostly fools around with the water, sucking off the
toothpaste and chewing on the brush. Every couple of days I get in
there with a (very soft) brush and actually scrub the surfaces --
for a long time she resisted and clamped down, but over time, she
has developed more tolerance and now she opens wide and kind of enjoys
it. It also seems to help if I brush along with her, and really show
her what I'm doing with the toothbrush, since she likes to imitate
everything I do! Finally, her first toothbrush was the tiny end of
an electric toothbrush. It works very well because the short handle
(2-3 inches) and small head is much easier for her to coordinate
getting into her mouth and moving around than a longer one.
I've found some very helpful books to get my son ready for the
dentist and brushing his teeth. His favorite is "Little Bear Brush Your
Teeth" in which Little Bear goes to fight the enemies on his teeth. It has
a good, but simple description of cavities, bacteria, etc. The second had
a bunch of animals that the child brushes the animals teeth with the
toothbrush that comes with book and at the end they floss the sharks teeth.
I found both on amazon.com. Ann
I think looking in the mirror to see how she is brushing her teeth has been a key motivation
for our toddler. We got a small hand mirror and put it behind the faucet while she stands
on her stepstool brushing her teeth. A made-up
sing-a-long a la Dr. Seuss gets her started "up and down and all around,
left teeth, right teeth, up teeth, low teeth."
Ok, this was a big issue.
They say you need to choose your battles carefully, and I chose this one.
All of my three tried to stop the brushing.
I was brushing their teeth for them. They didn't like it. They protested.
I offered to let them brush their teeth by themselves. They declined.
I told them this was NOT their decision to make. (not brushing).
Then I brushed their teeth for them. Two of mine required this only once.
The really stubborn one had it twice.
This is how you can brush the teeth of a non-cooperating toddler:
Wet the brush and stick it and the tube of paste into your shirt
pocket. (You're going to need both hands for a few seconds.) Lay the
toddler on the floor (preferably carpeted). Sit on the floor above
their head, placing your knees over the toddlers shoulders/ upper
arms. Your feet should be along side the child's body. This
effectively pins their arms and prevents them from undesired
interference. Now imobilize their head between your thighs by gently
squeezing. Now you have both hands free to load the paste onto the
brush, and one hand available to open lips (which will be sqeezed
tightly closed by the child). I found it effective to slide my finger
into the corner of the mouth and follow that with the brush. Brush as
gently as possible considering the lip resistance. Let them up to
During all of this maintain a calm manner and in a gentle voice let
them know over and over that brushing is not optional- tomorrow we can
do it the easy way, or the hard way - the choice is theirs.
from a dad wishing to remain relatively annonymous
I did not have much success with the "it's fun!" strategies. I think
this should be a nightly ritual, and it should be something that they
just expect to do, like always sitting in a carseat, no exceptions.
don't think kids are able to do a very good job brushing themselves
until they are in kingergarten or so.
So for my 3-year-old I have always used what I call the Tot Lock, which I
also use for giving medicine. I sit down on the toilet and hold him in
my lap, newborn-style, with his head cradled in the crook of my left arm. His right
arm is pinned behind me. I grip his left arm with my left hand. Then
with my right hand I brush his teeth. Sometimes he is yelling, which is fine,
because his mouth is open. Sometimes he clamps his jaws together, so I say
"OK, whenever you are ready, open your mouth" and then we just sit there in
the tot lock till his mouth opens up.
Some tricks ... "Say ahhhh" to get the back teeth, and "Say eeeeee" to get
the front teeth. I count "1 - 2 - 3 - 4"
on each surface (front top teeth - 1234, front bottom teeth - 1234, etc.)
When he was little and only had a few teeth, I used a baby washcloth to wipe
them off before bed. I didn't use toothpaste till he was able to spit - close
to 3 years.
My 3 year old daughter has a toothbrush which changes colour when it's used
(heat turns it from purple to pink). Since she got it, she loves brushing
her teeth -- she always wants to keep doing it long enough for the whole
toothbrush to change colour. I got it in France -- I haven't looked to see
if they have them here.
Our youngest child is very strong willed and when she said to us you're not brushing
my teeth, that was that. I remembered that when I was a kid I hated it
when one of my parents brushed my teeth. So when my daughter would
refuse, I would suggest that we brush each others teeth. This worked
quite well -- she would sort of brush my teeeth and then I would brush
her teeth. When I brushed her teeth I would try not to hold her too tight
or in a awkward position -- I had hated that too!
Do you want your blue toothbrush or your green one? I didn't really try
to do tooth-brushing seriously until my daughter was 2-1/2, but at that time I
instituted a ritual (every night before her bottle, even though I know that
kind of defeats the purpose) and kept consistent about it ("No teeth, no
bottle!"). As the months have gone by, she's gotten more and more used to it,
and more and more involved. Now she spontaneously goes in to brush her teeth in
the evenings, and even does it at other times. She has a handful of bright
colored brushes to choose from, and a couple of tubes of airplane toothpaste
which are small enough for her to hold, and don't hold enough to make too huge
of a mess! Every couple of days I get in there and do one real swipe on all of
the inside teeth surfaces to supplement her primarily front-teeth "do it
On toothbrushing, we've gotten him 3 different toothbrushes (one has
Elmo on it, one has bells in the handle, and one has a spiral handle).
We let him choose which toothbrush he wants, and he usually squeezes
the toothpaste on with some guidance (we found some toothpaste that
squeezes out in a little paw-print shape - makes it a little more
interesting), and then his mom or I often brush at the
same time as him. It seems to help to give him the choice of
toothbrush, as he doesn't get to choose whether he brushes or not.
My son got interested in brushing when he could select
his own toothbrush. But he especially likes brushing in
the shower or tub where spills are a non-issue. Also, since
he likes to sing, we use a tune to hum while he brushes. I
presented a 20 minute segment on teeth to the upper level
of his pre-school where we ended with everyone brushing
together while humming. Several parents reported a
carry-over to improved home brushing.
My orthodontist told me that toothpaste is simply not very
necessary to good teethcleaning, apart from some fairly minor
fluoride benefit. Have you tried brushing your child's teeth
I want to share a technique that has worked wonders with brushing and
flossing my son's teeth. We came up with it when he was 2-1/2 or 3
years old. My sister tried it with great success with her daughter as
well. It can be adjusted depending on what your child is really
interested in. For instance, at the time we started doing the Magic
Dentist my son was really into Super Heroes (and loved to pretend he
was a Super Hero), so I geared it accordingly. First I would start to
create some interest, and say something about an amazing Magic Dentist
that I had heard about. I would start to build it up gradually,
saying that the Magic Dentist would only work on Super Heroes, and the
Magic Dentist only showed up at certain times, you never knew when,
etc. Later, I would suddenly say something like "I think the Magic
Dentist is coming!",and then I would go sit on the bed, cross-legged,
and announce "I am the MAGIC DENTIST, and I ONLY work on Super Heroes!
Are there any Super Heroes around here?" I might also say something
like "Oh well, I guess there aren't any Super Heroes around here
today. Too bad." Invariably, my son would take the bait, leaping
around with excitement and saying he was Batman, or Superman, or
whoever, anxious to have his teeth looked at by the Magic Dentist. My
sister, whose daughter is into pink ponies, would be a Magic Dentist
who ONLY worked on pink ponies, and it worked like a charm every time.
Then I (the Magic Dentist) would have him lay down with his head on my
lap (I would tell him that I didn't believe he was a real Super Hero,
and the only way I could tell if he really was one would be to look at
his teeth), He would then open his mouth to show me that he was,
indeed a Super Hero! I would act totally astonished, and, continuing
to talk about what an amazing and powerful Super Hero he is, and what
amazing strong teeth he has, I would floss and brush his teeth with no
I couldn't believe how well it worked, and my sister had the same
results. My son is 6 now, and flossing and brushing is a breeze. We
sometimes do the Magic Dentist just for fun, though now he is usually
a Power Ranger instead of Batman. He has come to actually enjoy
having his teeth flossed, and reminds me about it if I forget. Hope
this helps! Sorry to be so long-winded!
Do you think he would find an electric toothbrush attractive? I am
really a fan of my Braun "plaque remover"--it gets my teeth nearly as clean
as the dentist does. Or there's a "super sonic" one that my dentist
recommended (but only after I'd invested in my Braun one, which the dentist
said was fine too). For your son, maybe with an electric toothbrush, when he
does get around to brushing, at least his teeth would get a good cleaning.
For the sakeof comparison, when hand-brushing for two minutes, the teeth get
X number of strokes, but with an electric toothbrush, the teeth get X
times 10,000 or so strokes in the same two minutes. Best wishes...
What finally got our daughter to want to brush her teeth was a
cute song about monsters snacking away on dirty teeth, complete
with pictures of the monsters carrying little pickaxes! Now she
sings it as she brushes her teeth.
Another method that I don't recommend, but that worked really well
for my mother, was the old guilt-trip method... She had really
bad teeth, but I ended up with no cavities at all. She used to
tell me, "When I was a little girl, I didn't have a mother to tell
me to brush my teeth. I used to get big cavities and get taken
to the dentist, but they had no anesthetic during WWII, so they'd
drill on my teeth only using perfume, and I would scream! You
don't want that to happen to you, do you?" :-}
When my children were little, we made a big deal
of "Mr. Cavity", who snuck into children's mouths and drilled holes in
the teeth. They would chase him out of their mouths with the
toothbrush, accompanied by dramatic sounds and commentary from me or their
father. There was also "Ms. Tangles" who was a kind of witch who got into
children's hair, and had to be chased out with a brush; also accompanied
by sounds and commentary by the brushing parent.
I have read with interest the various postings on ways to encourage
teeth-brushing in young children ... from stories to songs to eclectic
toothpastes to electric toothbrushes. We haven't yet tried the electric
toothbrush, which may be worth a shot. The stories and songs about teeth
monsters, etc. have been effective and entertaining for all involved. What
really worked, however, was the corn-blackberries combo, which we stumbled
on quite unintentionally. After a meal that included an ear of corn and a
big bowl full of berries, Sam (our almost three year old) was quite
impressed with the amount of said foodstuffs caught between his teeth, very
eager to brush them, and, for the first time, viscerally aware of the point
of the process.
My 3 1/2 year old son does not like to brush his teeth. I
often have to chase him around with a tooth brush. He ends up
eating the tooth paste before we get to the sink to rinse his
mouth. I asked his dentist, who said it was okay to eat a
small amount. I am thinking small amount twice a day can add
up. Does anyone know the safety of eating tooth paste? Please
give me any advice on how to get him to brush his teeth. I am
so tired from chasing him around. I tired letting him choose
his tooth brush( I have 5 different ones at home), and tooth
You probably already tried both of these things but thought I would toss
them out there in case they help. I am not in your situation, because
my son is one and a half. So myabe these are suggestions that only work
on smaller kids. I guess I will know in a couple years!
1. There is something called ''toddler toothpaste'' or ''training
toothpaste'' that is safe for them to swallow (or at least that what it
says on the box!). My son doesn't get the concept of spitting it out
yet, and since he hardly ever gets sugary-tasting stuff (though there is
no sugar in it, obviously), he likes it.
2. When we are gonna brush teeth, I tell him ahead of time about 5
minutes so he can know what's coming and that way he doen's have to be
interrupted with his playing or whatever he is doing really suddenly
(more prone to fight if that's the case). I give him to or three
preparatory announcements and then I sit him down and explain that we
need to do 10-10-10 on the bottom, and 10-10-10 on the top.
Then I count with every brush. ''Aqui - uno, dos, tres, cuatro.....''
Somtimes he bites down on the brush, i stop counting dramatically (like
mid word) and yell ''Hey!'' in disbelief and then he laughs and we move
Works for us, not sure if it is just because he is smaller genevieve
Six-year-old is neglecting brushing
I am looking for some advice on getting my 6 year old son enthused about
brushing his teeth. While I have read over previous suggestions they
mostly seem to be targeted towards younger children.
This situation has become extremely burdomsome on a daily/nightly
basis. I have to ask over and over for him to brush, only to have him
protest, whine, etc. which simply adds to my stress of the situation.
I simply do not know what to do to entice some excitement in him over
this very necessary task. I have tried to explain to him that how
crucial it is to brush effectively and regulary, and have even joked
with him by telling him that he won't want to eat jello and apple
sauce through straws all his life if his teeth fall out!!
He has already had 3 cavities filled, and is scheduled to have 2 more
filled in the next month. While I understand that this is partly
hereditary (as I had numerous fillings as a child, yet have healthy
teeth today) I am concerned that his behavior about brushing is having
a lot to do with. Advice would be greatly valued!
Two suggestions. One is we invested in a good electric toothbrush for
our kids (Braun) and that has helped a lot. Not only do our boys (5 and
8) think it is cool but they are doing a better job brushing. Also the
toothbrush does a lot of the work for them and so far we have no
We also use fluoride pills. Fluoride, of course, is more
controversial so that is something you will have to consider but there
is no doubt that it is extremely helpful for reducing cavities. You
need your dentist to give you a prescription for the pills. There
are also fluoride mouth washes but my youngest tends to swallow
everything so I was unwilling to go that route. (Our drinking water
does not have fluoride added.)
I'll be anxious to see what magic others suggest, since I have the
same problem. Have you experimented with different toothpastes? My
son liked Tom's fennel at that age, but not the children's flavors. I
use disclosure liquid, which I got from the dentist's office, for I think
about $7 for 4oz. It's MUCH cheaper and more effective than the tablets,
and shows two colors, one for old gunk and one for new.
The deal with my son is, he has to be ready for bed by a certain time.
We then lie on his bed together and I read to him until 9:00 at which
time he has to go to sleep. Sometimes he wants to do other things, which is
fine, but they must be conducive to calming down. If he delays in any
of his bedtime preparation tasks (shower, brushing his teeth, putting
pajamas on) it eats into his reading/together time. At nine, lights
out period. While I don't bug him about any particular task, I will remind
him of the time - reading does not start until all tasks are
I did have a talk with him about the bacteria that eat the food on our
teeth and secrete an acid which eats holes into our teeth - rotting
them. He has gone to bed a couple of times without brushing his teeth
- but then he swears he can feel the little buggers moving around in
there and will get up and run to the bathroom and brush!
Our son is now 6 but we've been using the same tactics for the last
couple of years. We make up games about the villians of his favorite TV
show eating his teeth and causing cavities, or hiding in his teeth. I do
the brushing-- although at this age I think my son is better at brushing
on his own, I don't want to rely on his efforts entirely. I also tell my
son: No brushing, no treats.
Another mother I know has an egg timer that she runs and tells her
twins (now 7) that they have to brush for that long. She says it keeps
her out of the struggle.
Re tooth-brushing: I bought a Sonicare electric toothbrush that goes
for 2 minutes (the recommended brushing time) and then shuts itself off.
The brush beeps after every 30 seconds, and the brusher is supposed to stay
on one "quadrant" of the mouth until the next beep comes, brushing all
surfaces of the teeth in that quadrant. (I think one model of Sonicare is
only electric toothbrush that does this, and it's well worth the extra $
to get the model that does.) My son never had the resistance to brushing
that yours has, but he really likes the Sonicare and the way it structures
his routine for him. It never really occurs to him to stop before the beep
gives him "permission." Perhaps you could present the Sonicare as a game or a
"helper" or something that would engage your child in some playful, enjoyable
way. Say it's a tooth-tickler or something. Don't know if this would work,
but it might be worth a try. My son always responds best when I lighten
things up and make him laugh a little. Good luck!
Kids who swallow toothpaste
I have a 2-year-old who dreads having his teeth brushed,
mostly because of the toothpaste. Does anyone have ideas
on how to make this less of a daily traumatic event?
Suggestions for milder tasting toothpaste? What about
fluoride vs. non-fluoride? (He's still not very good at
What we're not sure about is the Saccharin (artificial sweetener) in
kid's toothpastes (cancer promoting?). Does anyone know of
"healthier" toothpaste for kids who still swallow toothpaste and where
to buy it?
Our whole family uses Tom's of Maine...Cinnamint for the adults, and
Silly Strawberry for our 17 month old. Our son loves his toothpaste (does
he swallow more because it tastes so good?)...added bonus: no saccharin,
no dyes, no preservatives, no animal ingredients. Pretty sure you could
find this at Wild Oats, perhaps even Long's or Andronico's...we're in So
Cal right now so I can't say for sure. Also, on the subject of
the kiddos to allow toothbrushing in the first place... I find that if
I arm my boy with my adult toothbrush and offer up my own teeth for
his brushing pleasure, he doesn't mind so much as I scrub away on his
Tom's toothpaste has no Saccharin (artificial sweetener) or Nutrasweet
or sugar. You can get it almost anywhere--Trader Joe's has the lowest
price I've found ($2.59 for 6.0 oz). They make both with and without
flouride, this is helpful for those of us whose children still swallow
Having read a couple of posts in which people are promoting
Tom's of Maine toothpaste, I thought I should share the fact
that, according to an interview I heard a couple of years back with
Tom of Tom's of Maine, the company contributes a significant amount of
money to anti-choice organizations. I would be happy for any update on
this, but this was the state of things a little while back, and has
influenced my consumer habits.
Here is a url with Tom's of Maine statemente regarding the rumor about
their contributions to anti-choice movements. Below the url is the text
from the site.
There has been a low-level, but surprisingly persistent rumor that the
company and/or its owners are supporters of radical anti-abortion
groups. This rumor is absolutely false. The company does not take a
position on abortion rights (either for or against) and Tom & Kate
Chappell are not supporters or members of any anti-abortion group.
(see website above for continuation)
Tom's of Maine has never taken a position on reproductive issues as a
company nor have we made any corporate contribution or grant to any
organization whose mission is to change existing laws governing
abortion or access to it. Because Tom's of Maine respects the diverse
opinions of our owners, employees, customers, and retail partners, we
do not believe it is appropriate for us to advocate for a specific
political viewpoint as a company.
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