35 answers

Any Tips on Getting a One Year Old to Let You Brush His Teeth?

I am having a tough time brushing my son's teeth. He will let me get the tooth brush in his mouth, but curls his lips over his teeth preventing me from actually brushing his teeth. He will also chew on the toothbrush when I give it to him.

I have noticed a little build up on his two bottom teeth already and have managed to remove a little while he is sleeping, but want to make sure we take could care of his little teeth. Does anyone have any tips on how to get him to let me do a good job at brushing his teeth?

15 moms found this helpful

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Thanks for all the great advice! I've been trying a few of the more fun and coopertive suggestions and it's getting easier. It's great to get so much varied advice to choose from and so much easier than trying find answers in books. Thank you Mamasorce!

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I know it is a little late, but a one year old is not supossed to have floride in their toothpaste. so I tried training toothpaste, now my son reminds me to brush his teeth.

1 mom found this helpful

Okay, so I too missed the original post, but wanted to chime in here ;). Is it bad that my 1 year old loves having his teeth brushed. Okay, don't hate me just yet. My girls put up a huge fight about it. A dental hygenist first of all suggested to sit on the toilet seat and put the child in front of you with his back facing you and have him look up. It makes it easier to get in there and get those back teeth. So that's what I've been doing from the get go with my youngest since it ended up working so well after I found out with my middle child. Singing a song and allowing them to have their own tooth brush while you're brushing is helpful too. Sometimes it's a control thing and if you let them "brush" and then you brush they might be a little more willing to do it. Sing twinkle twinkle little start because that's about how long they should brush when they start brushing. So if you do it now then when he truly is old enough to brush on his own he'll know how long to do it.

1 mom found this helpful

Two words: electric toothbrush! My daughter hated having her teeth brushed until I bought an electric one. She loves it!

1 mom found this helpful

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I missed your request, and have not read all your responses, but... We would always act surprised and say what we saw in their teeth as we brushed - things that they had eaten the last meal, but which were stuck in their teeth. The whole idea would keep them still and thinking about what else might be in there. They would sometimes add something to my list. Like, "Oh, I see mac-n-cheese, and there is some peanut butter, and, oh my, I think that is carrot, and there is some milk, and a little cereal, and I can't believe it but I see gold fish swimming around!"

3 moms found this helpful

I had a lot of trouble with this until my silly comedian husband came to the rescue. He started playing with my daughter during teeth brushing time and now she loves it! The best thing is to get her to sing vowel sounds along with us which makes her open her mouth the way we need her to in order to brush ger teeth. A and E are the best, but we do all of them to keep it fun. If you keep the experience silly, he will probably enjoy it and even look forward to it.

2 moms found this helpful

We started brushing our son's teeth in front of the TV-- if he resisted, we just turned the TV off. Pretty soon teeth brushing became 'Oh, fine-- get it over with, just don't turn the TV off!'

1 mom found this helpful

He let me brush them, at first and then it was a "NO GO", like this surge of independence. So... I got an idea to get him a manual brush to use while I brush MY teeth. He really thinks he's doing something. I bought him an electric toothbrush, as well and after a while, I tell him, "Ok, it's Mommy's turn.". He opens his mouth and let's me brush with the electric. The other issue I had was THEN getting the manual away when we were done. I now give him his sippy cup of water in exchange 4 the manual and now there's no struggle with Mr. Independent

1 mom found this helpful

I don't remember where I got them, but I have some little "brushes" called Infa-Dent. They look a little like the finger guards secretaries use, but have a brush built in at one end. They are listed for children 3 months of age to two years. I haven't really used them, because we haven't had much issue with brushing, but I am thinking this might be an answer for you to feel that you are getting your child's teeth cleaner.
Another thing that comes to my mind is to ask if you are letting your son go to sleep with a bottle? In my experience, most children at his age don't seem to get much buildup unless they are being put down to sleep with a bottle. Pediatricians and dentists both try to discourage the practice, but I know for many parents it still seems an easy way to get the child to sleep. If you are one of those who do put your child to sleep with a bottle, I would try to break that habit. Either way, you might try the Infa-Dent brushes and see how they work for you.

1 mom found this helpful

Hold him down. It won't traumatize him. It's more important that his teeth get cleaned.

1 mom found this helpful

Two words: electric toothbrush! My daughter hated having her teeth brushed until I bought an electric one. She loves it!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi S.,

Here's a good website regarding your question. Blessing...

http://infant-toddler-health.suite101.com/article.cfm/whe...

1 mom found this helpful

When my girls were that age, I'd use the same method that I use to give our pets medications they don't want to take - just pry the mouth open at the joint of the jaw with one hand, and use the other to (brush the teeth, shove the pill into the mouth, etc). As long as you keep on insisting that his teeth get brushed twice every day, he will get tired of fighting you and will get with the program. It may take a couple of weeks or even months, but stick with it.

Our dentist gave us a good idea for how to floss their teeth at this age as well, and in fact I still do this with our 4-year old. Sit on the couch and have them put their head in your lap and open their mouth. It is much easier to see the backs and fronts of all their teeth if they're laying down! Also if you do this in front of the tv, they stay distracted while you floss their teeth.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi S.- I have the same issue with my 17 month old son. he screams and we have a wrestling match each time I try brush his teeth. his dentist told me that it sometimes helps if you have 2 identical toothbrushes. give him one and you use the other one to brush his teeth. he said otherwise it took his daughter until she was 3 to cooperate. this hasn't worked for me so we continue to wrestle.

I have to disagree with Rachna. I worked in the dental field for 7 years before becoming a nurse. drinking water does not wash away all of the sugar and plaque from his teeth. it helps but does not clean them. we had young children all the time who had cavities for one reason or another so I think she just got lucky her child's teeth were fine for not brushing and not seeing a dentist for 5 years. it is extremely important to introdcue your child to the dentist early ( about 1 yr) so they can detect and prevent any problems as well as to get them familiar with going to the dentist. brushing your child's teeth is part of raising a healthy child.
good luck

1 mom found this helpful

Take turns brushing each other's teeth. First let him brush his teeth and then have let you brush them then allow him to brush yours. Sing a song and make it fun or count the teeth as you brush.

1 mom found this helpful

My kids seemed to respond to telling them we had to get the "sugar bugs" out...something the dentist said.

1 mom found this helpful

I know it is a little late, but a one year old is not supossed to have floride in their toothpaste. so I tried training toothpaste, now my son reminds me to brush his teeth.

1 mom found this helpful

Okay, so I too missed the original post, but wanted to chime in here ;). Is it bad that my 1 year old loves having his teeth brushed. Okay, don't hate me just yet. My girls put up a huge fight about it. A dental hygenist first of all suggested to sit on the toilet seat and put the child in front of you with his back facing you and have him look up. It makes it easier to get in there and get those back teeth. So that's what I've been doing from the get go with my youngest since it ended up working so well after I found out with my middle child. Singing a song and allowing them to have their own tooth brush while you're brushing is helpful too. Sometimes it's a control thing and if you let them "brush" and then you brush they might be a little more willing to do it. Sing twinkle twinkle little start because that's about how long they should brush when they start brushing. So if you do it now then when he truly is old enough to brush on his own he'll know how long to do it.

1 mom found this helpful

Three things helped us...letting her brush my teeth, having her 'show' someone else ("Look, Daddy, look dog! Naomi is going to get her top teeth brushed now!") and giving her a non-breakable mirror so she could watch what I was doing (as we did it strapped in the highchair, not in the bathroom). Yes, it sure can be frustrating!

1 mom found this helpful

An electric toothbrush was helpful with my son at that age. It didn't stop him from fighting me, but
1) it cut back on the biting down on the brush because the vibration doesn't feel great if you get your teeth on the non bristled end
2) it was a lot faster because the brush did most of the work for me, so I basically just had to make sure it touched ever tooth rather than scrubbing each tooth manually.

(If you already use a sonicare or something, just get a new head for him).

Hope this helps,

T.

Hello S.,
Although my daughter didn't like having her teeth brushed I never had to hold her down. We did a few things. The first thing was let her brush (or chew on the tooth brush) by her self first (kids have to figure out how to do it on their own), then I would give her my tooth brush and I would take hers and she would brush my teeth while I brushed her teeth. It became a lot easier once we started using tooth paste too (get fluoride free if you are giving your child fluoride). This worked for a few weeks before the screaming began again. The thing that has worked for the past year is this. After I give her a chance to brush her own teeth I sit on the toilet, I put her on my lap facing me (she straddles me) I lean her back so her head is in my hand and then tell her she has Elmo on her teeth and I need to get them out of her mouth and into her dreams (someone on here told me this and it has been a life saver for me and my SIL). Then I make a big deal about how I need to catch Elmo, or grandma or daddy, etc. as I rush away. It has worked wonders and we've gotten rave reviews from our DDS when we bring her in. I think by holding her on my lap she feels safe and the "chase" to get them all makes it fun. She still has days where she doesn't want to open her mouth and with that I can hold her hands down with my arm that I brush her teeth.
I also think the routine we have helps. She knows once she gets her pj's on, the next step is brushing her teeth, rather she cries or helps, her teeth are going to be brushed, she will then be offered water, then fluoride, then her face cleaned and then she gets to go pick out two books. That is what we do and there is nothing she can do to change that and she knows it.
Best of luck and keep it up, it will get easier!
C.
PS. it's great that you are starting at 1 year!

Hello S.: Just wanted to say that I have a son, that calls me Mum, after living in England for 2 years & I love it.
I have learned with all 5 of my children and now with the grandchildren a simple trick, that I started when they were younger than yours but it could still work.
I bought bright colored tooth brushes, and toothpaste that has what looks like glitter in it. I let them play with it for a while getting used to it and then we actually brush the "germs" away. I have little story books that talk about brushing the teeth and we got a plastic tooth ( now that Holloween is around the cornor you might find teeth at a store) and let them brush those to get used to it.
I wish you luck in your adventure of parenthood- it is a thrill ride like none you willever find. It is also the most exciting and rewarding job I have ever had. Nana G

Here are some ideas that my dentists has given me.....let him pick out a couple of toothbrushes to buy....and maybe toothpaste if you are in need of it....and then let him play with the toothbrushes....The more he is used to them the less resistant he is to them...though being one year....you will probably try to brush as much as you can before he refuses...call your dentist and see what they think..

LOL! I laughed so hard because this brought back memories of my son. Please be persistant because my son ended up with a build up that did not go away until 3rd grade. Try to involve him in the process of buying the toothbrush, toothpaste etc. to get him a little more excited about the process.

My daughter was able to get my grandchild (age 3) to brush her teeth from a tv commercial. There is a commercial out about little green monsters in your mouth (plaque I think) and in order to get rid of them out of your mnouth you have to brush your teeth. My granddaughter does not want monsters in her teeth and she makes sure she brushes her teeth after each meal.

When it is time to brush his teeth, put a very little paste on it and let him do the first round, then tell him you need to check it and do the real brushing yourself.

At his age, he (1) wants to have a little independence and (2) needs to get a feeling of what a toothbrush does and how it feels.

Once I adopted this approach with my girls, the fights went away.

With my now 11 month old daughter and each of her 3 sibblings before, I just give her a toothbrush while I brush my teeth and she puts it in and chews on it. I wouldn't fight with her to use it for a long time because it's new to her and she loves having it. I talk to her about what I am doing , show her. Eventually she will be ready for me to brush a little ,it dosn't take much at this age. Only one of my children have gotten 1 cavity. My oldest daughter and she was 8 by then. I'd steer clear of a power struggle on this one.

Just like the two mom's below my husband & I have to hold our son down to brush his teeth. Basically we lay him down and my husband puts his hands together and then brings it above his head. This keeps him from moving his head and we can get down a lot quicker. Then whoevers not holding his hands pulls up the lips while the other quickly brushes the parts where his lips are clapped over the teeth.

I too hate making him so upset so I bought some "spiffies" off of the drugstore.com to try to see if he'd let us brush under the front and sides of his teeth, but unfortunately he bit our fingers too much. But since your lil' guy is younger & probably doesn't have his molars yet these might work....In retrospect I wish I would have found these earlier.....

I did asked his pediatrician and she pretty much said as long as we hold him down at least once a day he should be fine. Just recently he started to "brush" his own teeth. Before he'd just chew & suck on the toothbrush like your son, when we handed him the toothbrush. What seemed to promote the real brushing motion, even the top front teeth (which he was notorious for tightening his lip over) was giving him or holding a small mirror for him to see what he was doing. He absolutely loved it. We also put the tinest bit of toothpaste which seemed to make a BIG difference too ( I wouldn't recommend this for a 12mth old) But these past few weeks have shown that things do get better.

Just hang in there he will definitely thank you when he's older. My nephew at 3 yrs of age had to have caps put on all his top teeth b/c his mom didn't take care of his teeth...A little bit of crying or hysteria is well worth it until they can do it on their own..

I would always pretend I could see the food he ate that day. "Oh, I see a piece of broccoli! Let's brush it out!" Or, "Oh wait! What's that? Oh, it's a noodle!" or something like that. That always got them laughing a little and much more willing to open their mouths and let me get in there.

Don't give up! It's so important...

I know you already have gotten many answers on this, and it's pretty much a closed-case for you...but as an Occupational Therapy student (AND a mom to a 17-month old daughter with similar issues) I just have been thinking about this.
I would love to strongly suggest to you to NOT force him in this activity--I know, you're going to go the fun route, which is awesome!
I'm doing stuff with my daughter like a washcloth rubbed around her face first, letting her control it, letting her chew on the brush, play in the water, and basically I try not to force the issue much. After a messy meal, I know that there is food packed in those teeth, so I really want the food out--so I'll stand her in front of the mirror and make funny faces, trying to get a few grooves at a time.

All the best to you--and if you really have any ongoing concerns, just ask your pediatrician/dentist and they can even refer you for an OT evaluation from someone trained in oral-motor or sensory integration concerns!

I went through the same thing with my daughter (she's 16 months now.) Initially, both my husband and I had to hold her down in order to brush her teeth. She loves Elmo, so we bought her an Elmo toothbrush; that helped a little. Then we started to brush her teeth in the bath tub, so she has no where to run. While in the bath tub, my left index finger would pry open her mouth while I brushed her teeth with my right hand. She would let me get the toothbrush in but then would close her mouth shut so that I had a hard time brushing. I just kept at it. After a while, I think she understood that it's not a big deal and she opens her mouth now for me to brush her teeth. Just be patient and try all the suggestions. Your son will get it. Take care.

I would not worry too much about brushing at such young age. Healthy teeth have more to do with good eating habits than with good brushing. As long as you give water right after eating anything sugary and rinsing right after eating at night or just drinking water, it should be fine. My son did not quite get to brushing until age 2.5 and I took him for first dentist appt. at age 5. His teeth are perfectly healthy.
-R.

Dear S.,
Try letting him brush your teeth while you brush his. I did that with both my children. If I opened my mouth or stuck my bottom jaw or tongue out, they did the same thing with their mouths without even realizing they were doing it. They were too busy concentrating on brushing my teeth. It's worth a try!

Best wishes!

Hi S.
Try getting him his own toothbrush to use/chew on/put under the water, and then you can take turns brushing teeth with the other one. Works for me!

Teeth brushing and washing hair are the two big battles I fought with my son. The deal at our house was that each night his teeth must be brushed. If he cooperated and opened up for me to brush, I would read him a story. If I had to pry his mouth open, etc. I was too tired to read a story and he would have to go straight to bed.
The teeth brushing position that worked best for us was for me to sit on the toilet with him standing between my legs. I could always hold him between my knees if he got to squiggling too much.
For the morning brushing, I would just hand him a tooth brush to "use" while I brushed my teeth. He is now 4 and stands quietly to let me brush. Now he would rather have me do it and doesn't want to do it himself.

I had the pretty much the same experience as cheryl, but my son took a little longer to give up fighting! I hated to hold him down, but it had to be done. he finally started doing it himself when he was about three. i tried everything to motivate him, showed him pictures of people with rotten teeth, bought him a special toothbrush with flashing lights and music, talked with him about how much nicer it would be for us both if he did it himself,etc., but nothing worked. one day as i was getting ready to hold him down he looked up and said he wanted to try for himself!i felt so bad about holding him down that i confided in his dentist what i was doing and wondered if i was being a bad mom...he assured me that i was doing the right thing and my son wouldnt even remember it when he got older. and he was right! my son doesnt remember being held down at all! good luck!

My husband and I had to actually hold our daughter down to brush her teeth and after about a week of fighting us she gave up and let us do it. She is 2 1/2 and we haven't had a problem since and no cavities.

When my son, from about one to 2 1/2, wouldn't let me brush his teeth, I would let him brush my teeth. We would brush our teeth together. I brush his teeth; he brushes my teeth. The idea was that he would think that it was not so bad or invasive if I let him do it, too. We did this with Saline spray, too.

oh i am going thru the same thing with my 2 yrs old. i am trying to just set a good sample of doing it every mrng and night. and asking her to show me her teeth so i can see how clean it is and somtimes i throw in a ohh you miss a spot, let me help but that lasts only one second!

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