Need Help Brushing My Son's Teeth--any Tips?

Updated on February 29, 2008
J.H. asks from Billings, MT
9 answers

My son just turned 18 months old and REFUSES to let us brush his teeth. He has 12 teeth (4 on top and 4 on the bottom in front, plus 4 molars). He had oral aversions as a baby--we had to see a feeding therapist because he could not even eat stage 1 foods without gagging and throwing up. He has his eating under control now; he hasn't seen the feeding therapist since he was about 12 months, and can eat pretty much anything now, but he has had speech trouble, which we assume is related to the oral issues from before. He is currently getting help for his speech, and is getting close to where he should be for his age. Anyway, I have been very gently trying to introduce the toothbrush since he started getting teeth, and he HATES IT. I have been letting him play with and chew on his his toothbrush to let him get used to it, and he likes that, but he won't let us brush for him. He is getting his molars clean from chewing on the brush, but not the front top/bottom teeth. He clamps his mouth shut tight when I try to brush them, and I can't get in there! I have even tried having my husband tickle him so he'll laugh, but he stops the second the toothbrush gets close. I am out of ideas. Does anyone know any tips or tricks?

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answers from Denver on

I don't know if this will be any help to you, but its worth a try.

To get my twin boys ASKING to brush their teeth I told them that we had to get the "monsters" out of their teeth! Suddenly they took quite an interest in it! Maybe try letting him pick out his own character toothbrush and paste. My 5 year old twins love the lightening bug brushes that light up for 1-2 minutes so you know how long to brush. (not to mention their cheaper than the character brushes). Maybe try a rewards/sticker chart. You could also sing a favorite song(ABC's, etc) while you brush and have that be your special toothbrush song, or find a special song about brushing your teeth.

I hope this helps! Good Luck!



answers from Tucson on

Luckily our son loves brushing his teeth. It's part of his bedtime ritual--I brush good for a couple minutes and then he brushes. At first he was okay with it but ever since switching to a musical Thomas the Tank toothbrush he's all about brushing! So I use the musical brush and Dora toothpaste and haven't had any problems.



answers from Salt Lake City on

My son is the same age, and the only success I've had is using Oral B Baby Einstein flavored toothpaste. It is flouride-free, so it's safe. He usually opens his mouth for more because he likes the taste of it, and then I hurry and run the toothbrush over his teeth. I figure any contact with the tooth is better than nothing! Perhaps you've already tried that... Good luck!!!



answers from Denver on

My daughter was the same way when we first introduced teeth brushing. That was about a year and a half ago and although she still dislikes having her teeth brushed she will let us do it. A few things that worked:
- I allowed her to brush my teeth first and then said "Now it's your turn!".
- At the time she liked imitating our dog so I would tell her to pant like Duke (our dog) and she would open her mouth and I would get the brush in and brush her teeth.
- I got "Go Diego Go" brand toothpaste because she looked up to the character.
- My husband would let her stand on our bathroom sink and look in the mirror while brushing her own teeth first. Then he would take the brush from her and do a real quick brushing to finish.

Good luck!



answers from Boise on

Try letting him lick some flouride-free toothpaste off your finger--or his own. Whatever will get him to taste it. Then stick it on the toothbrush and let him lick/suck it off of there while you're holding it. Then the next time he does that, wiggle it a little, the next time a little more, and so on.
Maybe it'll work.
My 22 month old clamped shut like that, too, but I just teased him, squeezed his cheeks until his lips popped open, and jammed the toothbrush in there. Sounds awful on paper, but I wasn't mad, and he laughed. IT sounds like your little guy wouldn't like that approach, though.



answers from Denver on

Take him to the store, let him pick his own cool toothbrush and cool toothpaste (they have so many cool characters) you have him help brush in the mornings then you do it at night. Obviously it isn't an option and he has to do it, so figure a way that he feels involved and in control over it to some degree. I hate to say force his mouth open but you have to, it can be a power struggle at his age too, and he has to brush, period, kind of like part of getting teeth now. Maybe tell him you will just brush until the ABC song is up and sing to him while brushing, brush where he is most comfortable in the house too. Hang in there, just has to be done to ensure healthy teeth.



answers from Denver on

You need to let him brush his teeth.. Super Nanny had an episode on this not long ago. WHen the child was allowed to brush their own teeth they were more accepting of it.

Show him how you brush your teeth and then say encourage him that he is a big boy and it is his turn to try..

Hope that helps..



answers from Denver on


Our daughter is 14 months, and she still doesn't like us brushing her teeth. We took her dentist's advice. My husband holds her on the ground with her hands down, and he keeps her head steady. Then I brush her teeth. We also give her two toothbrushes to hold while I have one with fluoride-free toothpaste to brush with. Kids this age can't do a good job brushing their own teeth. Parents have to do it for them. We feel bad sometimes for being so demanding but we want our daughter to have nice baby teeth so her permanent teeth will come out nicely as well. She still doesn't like it to this day but she knows the process. Now I can brush her teeth on my own while pinning her down on the ground and holding her head so I can see her entire mouth. It's a tougher for the parents than the kid.
Good luck!



answers from Denver on

I would contact your feeding therapist again and see if they have any ideas. As you probably know, a toothbrush is the best form of oral stimulation. We let our son play with "pre-toothbrushes". Our feeding therapist gave us one and we bought more at Babies 'R Us. Nuby makes a nice one. Their rubber and have bumps on them.

The other recommendation for oral stimulation was letting our son "eat" yogurt and similar foods from a toothbrush.

It sounds like it might be a personal preference, but you might be able to get help with the therapist. Anyway, I always hate to give up free therapy, which brushing teeth is. GL

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