Teeth Brushing Battle

Updated on August 02, 2010
A.H. asks from Seattle, WA
21 answers

Does anyone have a good method of brushing their toddler's teeth? My son is 16 months and has 14 teeth and he REFUSES to allow them to be brushed. We have tried singing and brushing, having 1 parent hold him down while he other brushes, allowing him to help brush, given him a favorite toy to hold while he brushes, electric toothbrush, elmo toothbrush and paste....none of it has worked. His teeth look gross....HELP!

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So What Happened?

Well, thanks everyone. I think i'll try letting him watch me brush and maybe try it in the tub...I do use baby orajel, and he doesn't drink any juice, has water after every meal etc. We have tried forcing him to do it and holding him down, but we will end up hurting him to get that done, so that isn't happening..But I have hope for him watching me and see what happens. Thanks!

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answers from New York on

Brushing my 2 year old is also a hard task, she does allow me to brush a little if I let her do it too, so we go back and forward, but I they don't get as clean as they could if I do it myself.
So 2 times a week, I wait for her to be in her deep sleep and brush her teeth and I even flush them.
I use baby baby toothpaste and a normal string no the ones that sell at the store.
It does take at least 15 min. to do because I have to do it slowly and stop here and there so she doesn't wake up, but I get the job done.
I hope that as the time goes, either she learn to do it herself or allow me to do it.
So don't giving up brushing his teeth so he gets use to, but you can sneak a brushing here and there while he sleeps.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

My son goes through this on and off. I tried everything you did as well. Finally I got tired of it and one night I bribed him. I told him if he let me brush them nicely, I would give him a sticker. Well, it has been a week now and every night I tell him he lets me brush them really good and we pick out a sticker, it's working! I didn't want to resort to bribery, but it's important to me that his teeth get brushed and here's a way we can accomplish it! BTW, my son is 21 months old. This way may or may not work for you. Good luck.

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answers from Tucson on

i brush my 16 month olds teeth while she plays in the bathtub, she is having so much fun in the water that she doesnt mind having it done

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answers from Colorado Springs on

Can you take the "milkbones approach" for now and give him veggies with natural brushing action...? In any case, please don't use fluoridated toothpaste. It's toxic--and if you are using it, that may be why he's so resistant to brushing.

Best wishes and blessings

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

to me, on topics like tooth brushing, giving medication, and other necessary health care - you try it the "nice way", which you have done. every night, i'd say "okay, we can do it xyz way or daddy will have to hold you down while mommy brushes your teeth" - then hold him down. he WILL eventually get the message, but don't neglect his teeth in the meantime - the end result of that will be much more unpleasant than teeth brushing for him.

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answers from Denver on

Electric toothbrush. It's cool, it's fun, it gets the job done quickly.

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answers from Jamestown on

Brush your teeth in front of him and make it look exciting. He will be fascinated and want to do it too.



answers from San Antonio on

I can't believe there's someone who brushes her kid's teeth while they sleep. Hilarious! My son would NEVER stay asleep thru that.

First, use the Orajel toddler toothpaste. It'll say on there "Safe if Swallowed." Second, give your son TWO CHOICES. "Do you want mom to help you brush your teeth, or dad to help you brush your teeth?" We do this with almost EVERYTHING with my son. "Mom clip your nails or dad clip your nails?" "Walk to your bed or me carry you to your bed?"

So try giving him those two choices. Whomever he chooses to help him, I let my son brush a little on his own (he likes to push the button on). Sometimes, I brush my teeth with him. We both brush on our own for a little bit. Then I put my toothbrush down and help him brush. Sometimes I sing to the tune of Row Row Row your Boat "Brush Brush Brush your Teeth, Brush your Upper Teeth .... Brush brush brush brush, brush your upper teeth." Then I sing again while he lets me do the bottom teeth. If I need to, we'll sing the verses again.

Other times, I've told him to roar like a lion.

When he was about your son's age (he's 2 now), I'd even let him brush MY teeth with MY toothbrush, so he could see what goes on when he brushes in there. That being said, maybe give him a mirror to see that he gets all the "yucky germs" off of his teeth.

Good luck. nd if worse comes to worse, take him to the dentist. If he HATES it there, then later you can threaten "Well if you don't brush your teeth then I wil have to take you back in afew weeks. If you DO brush your teeth, we don't have to go back for another year."



answers from New York on

My daughter is now 16 months too. I started brushing her teeth at 6 months using the little towels (the ones to wash baby's hair, face and body with) and then gradually transition to the toothbrush you slip your index finger into, then the regular little toothbrush. My little one tends to bite my fingers a lot at first but then things got better over time. Best of luck to you!



answers from Austin on

they have toothbrushes that play music that you can only hear while brushing... maybe? lol.



answers from New York on

We fought this battle for years with my son. It took until he was 2 or 2.5 until he would brush without a huge fight. He is 4 now and having the dentist come to his preschool really helped. I had taken him to the dentist and he wouldn't cooperate with the checkup. Some kids are just more willful--my 18 month old daughter brushes fine and I never had to fight with her. Do as best you can to brush and avoid sweets until grows up a little. The watching you brush trick did work somewhat for my son. Also he will suck on a wet washcloth (weird but better than nothing if you rub his teeth with it).



answers from Los Angeles on

I know this is late, but have you been to see your dentist? We were having the same problem. When I brought my son in for his dental appt the dentist asked if he had been brushing. She explained to my son that he could brush his own teeth but after he was done mom or dad needed to finish cleanning his teeth. Ever since the dentist talked to him, we haven't had a problem. Our son is a little older now and he brushes his teeth and when he is done he calls us and we do another round with the toothbrush to make sure.



answers from New York on

First, stop forcing him and holding him down, you'are making it worse. He'll associate brushing with this terrible ordeal whereby he's forced to do something he doesn't want to and he'll hate it. You are essentially accomplishing the opposite of what you're hoping for. Let it be for a while if you have to, show him you don't care and when you brush your teeth, have him sit on the counter by your side, turn on the sink water, put his feet in the sink and have him splash the water or something. Make him have fun. Then give him the toothbrush, show him how to put it under the faucet and get it wet, have him play with it, make funny faces at him when you're brushing and rinsing, whatever, anything to make him laugh and get interested. Then try again in a few days. BTW: have you tried using a finger brush? One of those things you put on your index finger and stick it in his mouth and rub the teeth? That's what we did with my daugther when she was that young.



answers from New York on

Hi A.,
We've had a few things work for us. First, a fun toothbrush - my son has one with Elmo on it. Sometimes I let him sit on the bathroom counter and I'll turn on the faucet and let him put his hand in the running water - distractions can help! For a while I used to (rather dramatically) talk about what was on his teeth: "We have to get that Mac & Cheese out of your mouth!" I would talk about whatever he ate for dinner or snack before bed; after a few days, he started chiming in with things that he thought were in his mouth.
Also, what I think has helped the most is that he has 2 toothbrushes - one that he uses to "brush" (I use that term loosely - he used to just chew on the toothbrush), and one that I use to brush.
He also likes the "choo-choo train toothpaste." Not sure of the brand but I've seen it in every store - and it's flouride free so it's ok if he swallows it.
Good luck!!



answers from New York on

My son is 14 months old and he doesn't let me brush his teeth. I've started using that finger toothbrush what you pull on your finger. He doesn't like it either but I can use it quickly to clean his teeth a little bit. It's better than nothing.



answers from New York on

Our doctor suggested some of these great ideas, but one additional thing that helped for us was to let the kids brush in the morning and have mommy/daddy brushes at night. We started this trick at about that stage (15 months). While our kids did not do a good job, but at least they began to do the task themselves, had the choice/independence thing and we were sure their teeth get a really good clean at least once a day. In fact, our dentist said we should continue this approach until we are sure they are good brushers. I will add that I was surprised when she said many, many kids don't do a great job on thier own until age 8! I thought they'd be on theri own at five! oh well. Good luck!

My kids never liked it, but there are also kid-moutwash and ACT for kids.



answers from Spartanburg on

We have to fight with ours too and the bottom line you have to force them if they don't do it willing b/c you just can't let it go. My oldest gave up after a couple of weeks of the "hard way" (holding her down to do it). My youngest is more hard headed and about half of his brushings are the "hard way". I don't know that you give yours any kind of treats and at his age he may not get it yet, but you could threaten no juice, tea, cookie, etc if we can't brush your teeth...might work. We also brush ours in the tub at night, which is a bit of a distraction and one less step between bath and bed. If his teeth are looking gross you need to hold him down and brush REALLY good a few times, maybe check with a dentist about what to do if it is more than surface gunk at this point. We even floss ours on occasion with the floss picks, the kids like them and its easy to get the floss between the teeth with the picks. Eventually he will grow up!



answers from Denver on

do you brush your teeth in front of him?

Why don't you try that and make it look and sound like so much fun!! =D
I bet he'll be happy to try it out. I wouldn't ever make something like that a battle. Involve yourself in modeling the behavior and try to make it into a game. My daughter brushes when I brush and lets me clean her teeth with a baby washcloth too.... (bc I have her watch me wipe my teeth off too)

Oh- most toothpaste is moreso for "breath freshening" than actually cleaning the teeth... He'd be just fine using a brush or cloth for a while.
Make sure his toothpaste is flouride free, too. And- make sure he sees the dentist every 6 months.

Good luck!

I also feed my daughter a minimal amount of processed foods- as they tend to stick to teeth and cause plaque and tarter build up- and juices can cause staining- always give them water after dark juice to rinse the teeth!!
Same for us adults after dark wine.....



answers from Minneapolis on

We went through this with my daughter... it was horrible. One thing we found by accident was by blowdrying on her stomach we could distract her while the other brushed her teeth. I would also sit on the edge of the tub, squeeze her with my thighs and hold her head backwards while I brushed her teeth. She had to know this is not a choice.

The best news I have for you is I fought her and now she is 23 months and will finally brush her teeth pretty well. She will open up for me and let me brush. Let's hope your son grows out of this too!


answers from San Francisco on

If he enjoys' music, put a song on for him so that he is distracted!! You may then be able to brush his teeth. Use a sensitive toothpaste something that is very mild. It could be the toothpaste your using. You can buy different flavors such as bubblegum etc. Get something that he likes in a flavor and you can ask your dentist for flouride if thats' your concern. I know my dentist gave me an RX for flouride that you put in their juice or whatever they drink. It works' great!!



answers from New York on

Usually it's because of the taste of the toothpaste. Try brushing with just water and lots of rinsing. Then try one for children by Tom's of Maine, flavored Silly Strawberry. It dosen't burn their mouth the way the other stuff does. If he'll do a good job with just water though it still helps alot.
Avoid sticky treats though, no skittles!!

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