How to Teach Your Toddler to Brush Their Teeth

So, toddlers and brushing teeth… Sounds fun, right? Yeah, it doesn’t. 

Teaching a toddler how to brush their teeth is always a challenging task. However, it is also an incredibly important one because it sets the tone for how your little one will think about dental health for the rest of their life. If that sounds like a big deal, it’s because it is. You don’t want to mess this up!

All jokes aside, teaching your toddler how to brush their teeth is a great way to instill good habits and dental hygiene in your child from an early age. It also helps prevent cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other oral health problems. Here are some tips and tricks that will help make the process easier and more fun for both of you.

Why early dental care matters

Before we dive into the techniques, let's take a moment to understand why early dental care is so important. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. It affects millions of children worldwide. Starting good oral hygiene habits early on is the key to preventing most dental problems and setting the stage for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

When should you start? 

Experts agree that the best time to start teaching your toddler to brush their teeth is as soon as they have their first tooth. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should start cleaning your baby’s teeth with a soft cloth or a finger brush twice a day as soon as they erupt. This will help them get used to the sensation of having something in their mouth. It is also an effective way of removing any plaque or bacteria that may cause decay.

As your baby grows older and more teeth come in, you can switch to a small toothbrush. Experts recommend brushing your child’s teeth twice a day until they can do it by themselves at around the age of 5 or 6. 

Choosing the right tools

Next, you need to ensure that you use the right toothbrush and toothpaste for your toddler. Go for a soft-bristled toothbrush that is specifically designed for toddlers. Also, use toothpaste that is rated to be safe for children. The best ones contain some fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. Remember to only use a pea-sized smear of toothpaste until your child can spit it out, usually around the age of three.

How to get your toddler to enjoy it: Make it fun! 

Every child loves to have fun. Here are some ideas to make teeth brushing fun for your toddler: 

  • Sing a song: You can sing a song or play some music while brushing your child’s teeth. This will distract them from any discomfort while also helping them relax. Try to brush for the duration of the song. You can also use a timer or an app that plays a song for two minutes, which is the recommended duration for brushing. 
  • Use a reward system: Stickers, stars, or any other reward system are great for motivating your child to brush. You can create a chart where you mark each day that your child brushes their teeth. When they reach a certain number of marks, give them a small prize or do a special activity. Just make sure the rewards are not food-related as this would defeat the purpose of brushing.
  • Let them choose: Encourage your child to have some control over the brushing process by letting them choose their own toothbrush, toothpaste, or special brushing cup. Giving your toddler some choices like this helps make them feel more involved and interested in the activity. 
  • Be a role model: Show your child how to brush their teeth by doing it yourself in front of them. You can also brush your teeth together with your child and make it a family routine. 

Establishing a brushing routine

Consistency is key when it comes to teaching toddlers new habits. Establishing a regular brushing routine will help your little one understand that teeth brushing is an important part of their daily life. Here is how to do it: 

  • Set a designated brushing time: Choose a specific time of day for teeth brushing. Be consistent with it every day to help your child anticipate it daily. 
  • Use visual aids: Create a colorful chart and let your toddler place a sticker or draw a smiley face on it each time they brush their teeth. This visual representation can be highly motivating. 
  • Keep it brief: Toddlers have short attention spans. Try to keep each brushing session short at around two minutes. 
  • Brush together: This not only reinforces the importance of oral hygiene but also provides an opportunity for bonding!

Be patient

As mentioned earlier, teaching a toddler how to brush their teeth is never easy. Expect tantrums and outright resistance especially when you start. But don’t give up! Just be patient and gentle with your kiddo and try different strategies to encourage them. Here is how to deal with these challenges: 

  • Don’t make it a battle: If your child refuses to brush their teeth, don’t scold them. Instead, calm down and try to explain why brushing teeth is important. You can also offer incentives or alternatives like letting them watch you brush your teeth first. 
  • Don’t force it: If your child is too tired or cranky to brush their teeth, don’t force them to do it. This will only make them associate brushing their teeth with negative emotions. You can always try again later when they are in a better mood. To help prevent this, consider making brushing their teeth part of their bedtime or morning routine so they get used to doing it every day.
  • Don’t worry too much: Inevitably, your child will miss a brushing session or fail to do it correctly. Don’t worry too much about it. Remember this is a gradual process that takes time. Don’t expect your toddler to master it overnight! 

Seeking professional dental care

Finally, try to make regular visits to the dentist with your toddler, This is essential for optimal oral health. Consider scheduling your child's first dental visit by their first birthday. This early introduction to the dentist will help familiarize your little one with the dental office. It also pretty much guarantees that any potential issues are addressed promptly.

Final Thoughts

Teaching your toddler to brush their teeth is not easy. It will take lots of patience and consistency from you to pull it off. With the tips and tricks outlined in this guide, though, you should be able to make teeth brushing a fun and engaging experience for your kiddo. This is the key to establishing oral hygiene habits that will have your child flashing healthy smiles for a lifetime. Good luck!