Are you tired of engaging in a power struggle to brush your toddler’s teeth? It’s time to stop and take a step back to analyze what you can try and do differently. Trying to figure out how to brush your toddler’s teeth without a fight might be one of the most annoying parts of parenthood.
For the longest time, I felt like I was running in circles over teethbrushing. I didn’t feel like I was getting Princess L to accept the fact that she has to brush her teeth twice a day. It was a massive struggle to get her to keep from running away or wriggling out of my arms. There were many tears. I had to stop and rethink how I was approaching the fiasco to figure out how we could solve our problem.
I want to share with you what we have found that has transformed our twice-daily battle ritual into a much healthier habit of dental care. Thankfully, Princess L happily helps us brush her teeth now. It took only a couple of changes to transform our morning and nighttime routine.
Getting started on what to use to brush your toddler’s teeth
It may seem obvious enough that you need toothpaste and a toothbrush to get started. But did you know that you should start flossing your toddler’s teeth once they start touching? I didn’t until we were told by our dentist. Princess L’s teeth came in touching, so that meant we had to start flossing before her first birthday.
Flossing a 1 year old (or a toddler’s) teeth can be an enormous challenge. Luckily for us, Princess L has always really enjoyed getting her teeth flossed. We started out by using these Twistables flossers by Crayola and they have been a massive hit since day one!
We love that these come in different flavors and colors. They also make flossing her teeth possible for us to do quickly and effectively because of the handle.
If you are in the middle of a battle of the brushing, try letting your little one pick out a new toothbrush to help get them to look forward to getting to use it. Another thing worth experimenting with is your toothpaste. This one by Burts Bees has been Princess L’s favorite. I appreciate that it doesn’t include any dyes like most other children’s toothpaste.
when your toddler hates brushing their teeth
If your little one is having meltdowns over toothbrushing time, it’s important to take into consideration their feelings. I know first hand that I wasn’t engaging with our tooth brushing routine with all the calmness and patience I could have. I rushed and begged and pleaded for cooperation. Just trying to get it over with so we could move onto the next part of our routine.
This total lack of thoughtfulness on my part and rushing is what made the situation so much worse. I realized I wasn’t helping boost my daughter’s confidence in this area of personal hygiene and that I wasn’t setting her up for success.
Taking lots of pauses and realizing that toothbrushing can last for several minutes and that it’s okay if we do the top and need to take a break and chat before getting to the bottom made a huge difference in our experience. My single biggest tip if your little one is fighting you on brushing their teeth, is to slow down. Don’t rush and be calm- as hard as it may very well be. Our little ones totally sense our emotions and feed off our energy.
If your toddler hates to brush their teeth then it is time to find ways to make it fun…
finding ways to make it fun!
I asked our family dentist how to make brushing my toddler’s teeth less of a challenge. He recommended trying to make it something that she would look forward to. And recommended offering an incentive such as watching her favorite show while we brushed her teeth. Since we heavily limit any screen time, this didn’t feel like a very reasonable option for us. We had to get creative!
The first thing I did was let Princess L pick out her own toothbrush. She was very excited to pick out her own Frozen toothbrushes! We had been trying to make our own songs to sing while we brushed our teeth, but that just simply wasn’t fun enough… Trying to brush a toddler’s teeth made be made easier just by letting them decide on their own toothbrush!
Then I remembered something her pediatrician did to check her ears while we had a check-up. Her doctor asked to see if there were any monkeys in her ears. Behold my surprise when Princess L allowed her to look into her ears without any fussing! I tried this same tactic at home and asked if I could check for monkeys in her mouth. She willingly opened her mouth to see and I told her I saw an entire family in there! We have to brush your teeth to get them out! Engaging in some make-believe play while brushing teeth has completely transformed our teeth brushing routine.
While I’m excavating the monkeys out, I sometimes throw in some cool sound effects and pretend I’m throwing them across the room. To her delight, she loves when we talk for the monkeys too. Sometimes the monkeys will sing to her about being washed away. But usually “Grandpa Monkey” likes to ask Princess L about her day or what her plans are.
Instead of asking Princess L to brush her teeth, we ask if she is ready to get the monkeys out of her mouth. She runs to the bathroom now! Its been a massive success!
Teaching your toddler to brush their own teeth
Dental hygiene is so important for everyone and is a skill we want to teach our toddlers how to do by themselves. Try offering them an opportunity to practice after you have already brushed their teeth for them. By brushing their teeth before you let them practice alone, you will get rid of the possibility of them becoming bored of it before you have a chance to do it too.
I also highly recommend the Twistables teeth flossers for teaching your toddler how to floss their own teeth. They are made to be very user friendly for small children thanks to the handle. It is so much easier to use than traditional tooth floss!
Another perfect way to teach dental hygiene to your toddler is to model to them what they should be doing. While giving them the opportunity to do it themselves, take that time to do your teeth care routine too! Try and get them to copy you and mimic your moves!
don’t engage in a battle
And finally, as tough as it may be… don’t engage into a battle of wills with your toddler over tooth brushing. This can lead to anxiety around this part of your daily routine. Help build up your toddler’s confidence by expressing how impressed you are once you start brushing and flossing. “Grandpa Monkey” always tells Princess L that he is super wowed by how grown up she is for taking care of her teeth.
Our tots totally feed off our energy. Make sure you’re calm and not anxious yourself before starting. If you have been having a lot of difficulties recently getting your little one to brush their teeth ask for help! Try to have someone else take a shot at it if possible.
I hope you found a new tip or trick to try for the next time you go to brush your toddler’s teeth! Please share with me any toddler teeth brushing hacks you have found yourself. I would love to hear from you!