You’ve done the singing. You’ve done the dancing. You’ve done the pleading. You’ve even begged! But you still can’t figure out how to get your toddler to brush their teeth. You’re starting to feel like your toddler wears the pants in your house. I get it.
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I’ve been there. And done that. I own the T-shirt! I’ve also got the best tips to stop the power struggle over brushing those pearly whites, and I’m more than happy to share them with you!
1. Let Your Child Brush First
Sometimes our toddlers are so strong willed because they want more independence! So let your child brush their teeth first, and then follow-up to make sure the job is up to par.
2. Brush with Xylitol
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that helps prevent cavities when used in the mouth 3-5x throughout the day. I used xylitol as part of a protocol to halt and heal my son’s tooth decay when he was younger. This helped him avoid a cavity and re-strengthen his enamel.
Xylitol tastes sweet, and so your toddler might be more willing to let you brush with it. It’s perfectly safe to ingest, although for some people it may cause a little diarrhea at first.
3. Play Sesame Street’s “Kids Just Love To Brush”
This was my secret sauce to get my son to brush his teeth when he was younger. He loved brushing along to this song, and would also allow me to brush. For a while it was a part of our daily routine, and graced our schedule two times a day!
Aren’t the old school classic Sesame tunes the best?
4. Tell Him You’ve Got To Remove The “Cavity Bugs”
My son hated the idea of bugs in his mouth, and would let me “check” if they’re all gone yet. He would giggle as I go “Uh oh, I found one more!” and quickly brush another section 3 or 4 times. Do very short bursts of brushing in every area that you find a “cavity bug.”
5. Go Over All The Foods Your Toddler Ate Today
My son really got a kick out of this one. I’d say, “Oh my gosh, you’ve still got a piece of tuna between your teeth!” and do the same for all the foods he ate that day. I would say, “brush brush brush brush brush brush brush!” each time I “found” a new piece of food. He would giggle as I got all the “food” out, but allow me to get the job done!
6. Brush Your Teeth At The Same Time
Kids love to participate in group activities, and brushing your teeth with your toddler can help you both to bond while also eliminating the daily power struggle about brushing teeth.
Act like you’re having the time of your life brushing your teeth, and see who can get their teeth the cleanest!
Alternatively, you can try brushing each other’s teeth!
7. Have Your Child Lay Down In Your Lap
Position your toddler to lay with his or her head in your lap while facing up. Brushing his teeth this way can seem more intimate and fun. It can also help you to get a deeper clean.
Do keep a paper towel or small washcloth nearby to sap up saliva so your child doesn’t begin gagging on spit! That would make this a negative experience.
8. Give Your Child A Choice
While getting your toddler used to brushing his teeth is important, that doesn’t mean you have to make it such a big deal that your child has to cry the whole time their teeth are being brushed. You can use these xylitol wipes or this spray instead and that will help your child avoid cavities even if they’re not being the best about brushing at this moment.
This will help them avoid cavities and keep routine while warming up to the idea of brushing their teeth every day, at least twice a day.
Rest assured your child will mature, and regular toothbrushing without fuss will happen eventually!
9. Praise Your Child For A Job Well Done
Be sure to praise your child when they are cooperating, or attempting to brush their teeth on their own.
While we do want them to have intrinsic motivation, giving them a pat on the back now and then won’t hurt. For this reason, reward charts and stickers or small prizes can be helpful to encourage your child to brush their teeth.
For things you can say instead of good job, check out this post of alternative sayings to good job! Your child will be so excited to see your face light up that they’ll want to make brushing their teeth a regular ritual!
10. Try A Different Toothbrush
While you might have your favorite toothbrush for your toddler, a different one might do the trick. You want to know how to get your toddler to brush their teeth, so you might as well give this tip a try! If you chose a toothbrush without your toddlers personality in mind, it may be time to shop for a new one.
Your child might do better with a light up toothbrush, or an automatic toothbrush, or even a more adult-like toothbrush. They might prefer a toothbrush in their favorite color, or with their favorite cartoon character on it.
Make sure the bristles are soft and won’t harm your child’s tender gums.
11. Make It A “Special Thing”
Sometimes it seems like toddlers are fighting against anything that’s normal and could really be done with in a few minutes if they’d just listen and get it over with!
Why not try making mundane tasks grand?
If you want to get your toddler to brush their teeth without fuss, you’ve got to be inventive.
How about having “spa time” early in the morning or in the evening before bed while warming up your child to this important routine? You can also include any other personal hygiene tasks your little bub is trying to avoid. Fancy baths, nail trimming and non-toxic painting with piggy paint–making a big deal out of simple tasks like brushing teeth can make them seem more exciting and fun!
I hope this helped you figure out how to get your toddler to brush their teeth!
Struggling with a toddler who doesn’t value basic hygiene as much as you do is no easy feat. Of course you can’t just give up because you want your precious babe to have great dental health!
Thankfully there are several options you can try, and xylitol wipes and spray that can be very helpful if your child won’t play along no matter what you try.
Good luck mama, you’ve got this under control!