Getting a 20 Month Old to Brush Teeth

Updated on August 04, 2007
S.C. asks from Green Bay, WI
9 answers

Does anyone have a trick to getting their toddler to cooperate while trying to brush their teeth? We've tried letting her "brush" her teeth first and then trying to sneak a rubber "finger toothbrush" in intermittently. She just ends up biting my finger, clamping her mouth shut, or shaking her head so I have no way to get a toothbrush in. We've also told her we want to get the "germies" out of her mouth and the only way to do that is to brush her teeth. She's such a wonderful little girl, and this is the only thing she won't cooperate with.

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answers from Appleton on

Hi S.! This may sound cruel, but if my kids won't let me brush thoroughly, I pin them down and just get it done. For two reasons: first of all, I had a friend whose 3 year old had to be actually fill all the cavities he had. It was heartwrenching and I would NEVER want my kids to go through that. Secondly, I have awful teeth, and I would much rather see them pinned down to get their teeth brushed than to get a cavity filled. I would ask your dentist for tips, but just think about what you are preventing for brushing them well. My 3 1/2 year old cooperates fully, but my 2 year old still squirms and hates it...and if he moves so I can't do it well, I pin him and it or not. Good luck!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from La Crosse on

I am a mother of 3 and also a dental hygienist. I have trouble getting my 5 year old to brush at times and I also have a 2 1/2 year old who can be troblesome at times. Make it as fun as possible for her. Sing songs, name her teeth and tell her that you need to brush them. My sister in law named all of her kids teeth using Sesame Street names, but you could use anything familiar to your child. I try and use a fun toothpaste as well. They make them in some kind of yummy flavors that might be enough to get the toothbrush in her mouth and then if she just chews on it you are probably OK. If you are consistent and make the attempt every night with no exceptions and, if nothing else, get the brush in her mouth, then eventually it will become something that she doesn't fight anymore. Good Luck.

By the way, my 6 month old sons name is Rowan Patrick :)



answers from Madison on

our dentist said that our sons teeth were getting clean even if he was chewing on his toothbrush with the kid toothpaste on it



answers from Milwaukee on

My son is actually almost 3 now, but we went through that a while ago. I told him there were tooth faries behind his teeth and we had to get them out. That allowed him to open his mouth wide up so they could fly out....just be creative and see what works!



answers from St. Cloud on

I have been having this same problem with my 15 mo son who has 16 teeth, but just the other day I tried using a motorized toorbrush with the spinning head and he did not want me to stop brushing his teeth. I think he liked the vibrations on his teeth. Maybe something like that would work with your little girl. Hope this helps a little


answers from Milwaukee on

my son for the longest time wouldn't use toothpaste. and just brush with water. and he would chew on the toothbrush while trying to brush his teeth to get the water out. when i took him to the dentist... she said whatever he was doing to brush his teeth was fine and keeping his teeth clean. so try just letting your child brush with just water. it maybe the toothpaste too that they dont' like. my son now will only use crest for kids.



answers from Milwaukee on

I bought my daughter Claire that Gerber tooth brush with the special toothpaste. I took her in there when I brushed my teeth and then I gave her the brush with her tooth paste on it. At first she would only put it in her mouth and just suck the paste off but now she moves it back and forth. Then I take the brush from her and do her teeth. She thinks its a big game. She only has 8 teeth so I can usually get in there. I will ask her if she wants to brush her teeth now and she gets excited. She's 22 months now.



answers from Green Bay on

Hi S.:

You could try letting her pick out a special toothbrush at Wal-Mart.....and find a bubblegum or strawberry toothpaste rather than the spicey mint flavors.

Also, I had to lay my kids on the floor and brush their teeth with my husband there to help, until they were at least 2 years old.
Brushing kids teeth can be very challenging and frustrating....but they have to be brushed. Kids can get cavities much easier than adults. And for the real little ones, if they have a cavity that needs to be filled, the child needs to be put under with anesthesia at a hospital. It's very stressful for the child and parent to have this done. So, be diligent and consistent with the brushing and eventually the child will cooperate.

Good Luck



answers from Duluth on

Keep trying! This is SOOOOOO important! I work for a dental office and have seen kids come in with 12 cavities (or worse) by the age of 4! This is actually something that is still somewhat of a struggle with my 3 year old, although much better than it has been. A couple of things that worked for us.
We called them "cookie bugs" and even gave them names such as Grandma, Grandpa, sister, etc. I'd offer to let her get the big ones and then I'd go in for the "little ones" and brush her whole mouth thoroughly.
Sing a song when you brush. Make up words to a familiar tune about brushing teeth.
When brushing, open your own mouth wide. Kids (and adults for that matter) have a natural tendancy to mimic body language. Try this, it really works.
Lastly, once the task is completed, TONS of praise. We tell our daughter "WOW, you have the whitest teeth around" then we flinch and cover our eyes and say, "Your teeth are soooooo bright that we need sunglasses. Shut them off!" and make a silly deal about it. If she doesn't brush as well, we don't make a big deal about it. She wants us to so she wants to brush thoroughly. And sometimes she refuses to eat anything after she's brushed so she doesn't get them dirty!
Also, brush for 2 minutes if possible and get into this lifelong habit and try to get all surfaces of the teeth. It is also never too early to floss. MANY MANY kids who come in to our office with decay have cavities not only on the biting surfaces, but between their teeth.
It is unbelieveably expensive to fill teeth. And people think, "oh they are only baby teeth". But decay is bacteria that gets into your system and can affect your whole body. How baby teeth are taken care of can have an effect on how permanant teeth form.
Definitely special kids toothpaste and a brush as well.

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