28 answers

Eighteen Month Old Hates to Brush His Teeth Help

Hi Moms,
My son is 18 months and hates to brush his teeth. I was wondering if anyone has any tips or ideas I could try. He fights me everytime I try to get the toothbrush in his mouth and if I let him do it him self he just eats the toothpaste. I've also tried to brush his teeth during the day hoping there would be less of a fight but it did'nt work.


1 mom found this helpful

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Maybe you can just let him have the toothbrush without the toothpaste. If he's allowed to do it safely his way, then he may decide he likes it. It will probably also help his motor skills.

I let my son do it himself first, then I take a bigger toothbrush. I tell him it's mine, he gets excited and lets me brush his teeth with it. Also you might want to try this, my son also loves it I sell a product that they use a lot in pediatric offices. It is a monkey head with big teeth and you play with it and teach him about brushing. It is really cute and funny. Good Luck!
www.DiscoveryToysLink.com/LisaRyan LisaM

You might try making an appointment with a pediatric dentist. they may have some tried and true techniques. My boys are young adults now, so I don't know any local referrals. When they were younger they also enjoyed electric toothbrushes which were available with Spiderman and other cartoon characters.

More Answers

Just wait until your child is older. Why make them miserable and stress out over teeth at such an early age. Teeth and dentists are horrible enough. He can be terriozed by all that much later in life.

For now love your child and nurture him. Oral hygiene can wait until age 3. They teach it in pre-school now.

1 mom found this helpful

This is going to sound evil, but I know this topic has come up in the past and people emailed me to say they did the same thing... Good oral hygene is NOT an option in my house-- you HAVE to brush your teeth and you HAVE to brush them well. My hygentist said kids do not have the dexterity to do a thorough enough job until they are around SEVEN YEARS OLD, so I brushed my kids' teeth for them until kindergarten and then started teaching them to do it on their own (and then we took turns for a couple of years so they could learn some independance while I still made sure the job was thorough)... Anyway, I would hold them down on the floor in the living room with their head on my lap and I'd hold them with my legs if necessary. They'd hate it, of course. So when they were old enough to understand, I'd say "Easy way or hard way?" and let them choose. They knew it was going to be done no matter what, so they could chose standing in front of the mirror or in a head lock on the carpet!! Fortunately, child #3 likes to have his teeth brushed so we haven't been through all the drama this time around!!

1 mom found this helpful


I know, I have a 19 mo old son and he will purse those lips together so tight that you couldn't get a toothpick in there much less a toothbrush!

I have found that he likes to just chew on the toothbrush so I hand it to him often. If he takes it, I try and watch where he leaves it because it can end up in that black hole or full of dust bunnies (yuk!). He loves the toothpaste that they sell at CVS, it comes with one of the finger toothbrushes, it's an enzyme type with milk proteins and apple/banana flavor I think. It's the CVS brand.

When we were running out (he actually took the tube and was sucking the paste out of it so it ran out quickly, no tummy problems, thank goodness!) I bought him an oragel with thomas the train on the front because he was interested in it but it was mixed berry so I worried he wouldn't like it. guess what? i was right! it's also a blue gel so it gets dry and stuck on the bristles. I'm going back to find somemore of the CVS stuff.

Hope you find a good solution. He does seem to like to get up on the counter with me when I'm brushing and watch and "help" lol!

Get a little mirror so that you can show him how to make bubbles with the tooth paste. He's still a little young so you don't have to push the teeth brushing just yet. Wait a month or so with trying a few times a week and then go back to your routine.
My son is 2 1/2yr old and is only now understanding how to brush his teeth and not eat the paste as much.

At 12 months I started brushing my daughter's teeth by telling her animals were in her mouth. We brush out monkeys, Beluga whales, Maisy Mouse, ducks...you name it it's been in her mouth and we've brushed it out. She is now 2, and still twice per day I am chasing some fictional character out of her teeth, or trying to find one that she has told me is in there. We also floss using the Johnson & Johnson dinosaur flossers. When we started flossing, I asked her whether she would rather stand or lie down, and she prefers to lie on her back while mommy flosses the "monkeys" out. I hope that helps. I did purchase an electric cartoon toothbrush in case I had trouble. I didn't need to use it, but I was thinking if she gave me a hard time I could give her that to let her do it herself with and the tingly-ness might help.

Because children this age don't quite pick up on the spitting out the toothpaste, make sure you're using a non-flourid toothpaste. Have you tried having him "brush" his teeth at the same time as you, children like to do what mommy and daddy do? Another option, until he's ready to brush his teeth on his own, is to wipe them down with a washcloth. At this age, unless he's sleeping with a bottle or drinks a lot of sugared drinks, he's not in any danger of tooth decay. It's okay for him to suck on the toothbrush and you follow it up with the washcloth. The main thing is he gets the idea.

Our son has sensory issues in his mouth so brushing was hard for him too. He is 6 now and rarely fights us. I started taking him to the dentist I think around age 2 maybe. She puts the little ones with their heads on a pillow in her lap while brushing and checking their teeth and if they are fidgety their lower half of their body is in the parent's lap so mom or dad can hold them still. This is what we did at home for a while. My husband would sit down with our son in his lap and hug him until I got ready. We'd then lay him backwards onto the pillow on my lap (sitting on the bathroom floor so we were in the right room where teeth are brushed). He held our son still (arms legs and all) and I held his head while we brushed. We started with water only for a few weeks and then moved on to very small amounts of toothpaste to get him used to the taste. He didn't like being held down so this lasted maybe 6 months and then we could use it over him. If he fussed while we brushed his teeth we would ask him "Do you want the pillow tonight?" That usually curbed it. He never got hurt being held but it helped keep from the toothbrush jamming into his mouth from sudden body jerks, etc. We had to essentially desensitize his mouth. We also focused more on the front and moved our way back. The back of his mouth was more sensitive. This may or not be your son's concern. One last thing to think about is what he is eating/drinking. We made the decision that if brushing was going to be difficult we were going to limit him to mainly water during the day and occasionally half a cup of juice at lunch(he can't have milk so that is why that's not in there). We also don't give him a ton of sweets. Actually very little. While building up his teethbrushing skills and abilities we have to protect his teeth with another strategy - limited sweets! I hope this helps. I don't know where you live but Dr. Rachel Dermody in St. Lucie West is the best pediatric dentist I know of. Doesn't hurt to start kids young. This way they get used to going and she can watch for cavities if he is struggling with brushing. She is soooo nice and her staff is amazing!

Same problem here. We went crazy for a long time until we discovered a couple of solutions.

My son loooooves cars and trucks. So I drew a calendar on a sheet of paper, and each time he let me brush his teeth without fighting I'd draw a car or truck of his choice in the next box (note that I am no artist!). Each time that x number of boxes were filled, I gave him a Hot Wheels/ Matchbox car (in fact, I recommend keeping a stash of cars somewhere that you can use for bribery purposes when needed ;) ). When he filled up the whole sheet, I got him a bigger toy.

The other thing, which we still do (he's 3 now), is that we let him watch a favorite video while I brush his teeth. If he fights, the video gets paused until he settles down. This is now our standard evening ritual. (Lately he's really into the Wheels on the Bus series of videos -- I definitely recommend them for little ones.) Granted, if you don't let him watch videos yet then this isn't an option, but you might try the same technique with a favorite CD or something.

As others have stated, you will need to do the brushing yourself until he is much older. What I do is brush him myself, and then let him brush himself for a little bit afterwards. That way he's getting in the habit of trying it himself but is still getting a proper brushing. Also, be sure to use fluoride-free toothpaste for toddlers -- it will say something like "safe to swallow" on it. Not every store carries it all the time, but I find that Target almost always has it in stock.

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