Toddler Teeth

Updated on March 05, 2008
M.G. asks from Omaha, NE
23 answers

My 16 mos. old son has 8 front teeth and just got his first 4 molars. I've been practicing tooth brushing with him for a while now and he likes to try to do it himself - mostly because he likes to suck the baby-toothpaste of the toothbrush. ;-) He is getting a little better every day and I know he is still young. I try to do it for him of course, but not sure that I'm doing a good enough job. I notice sometimes that his breath is a little smelly and last night I noticed something red in the middle of his top right molar. To me it looks like there is something stuck in there, but he won't hold still long enough for me to investigate or try to brush it out. And of course I run the risk of having my finger bitten whenever I stick it in his mouth.

I'd also like to know if there is a better or easier way for me to brush his teeth, especially the molars, to make sure we really get them clean.

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all of you for the great advice! I am now brushing his teeth with him laying on the floor in his room when I get him dressed in his pajamas at night. This seems to be working a lot better - I was holding him before standing in front of the sink in the bathroom, and I think there were too many distractions for him and he'd get interested in messing with other things... I let him have the toothbrush after I'm done brushing his teeth and he can "brush". The red spot in his molar disappeared - apparently he just had some food stuck in it. Thanks again!

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L.P.

answers from Green Bay on

My son, now 2 1/2 yo also used to give me quite a fuss about brushing his teeth. I was able to reason with him. I tell him that momma has to brush his teeth first and then he can finish brushing. It has worked for me. Good luck to you

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C.M.

answers from Milwaukee on

I would say try having 2 brushes - one for him and one for mom to use for "inspection". You might also want to try a fun electric toothbrush.

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E.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

I am the mother of an 18 month-old girl (also a 5 yr. old girl). What has worked great for me is I let her watch me brush my teeth. I give her toothbrush to her while I do that and she can play in the water with it.(They love to copy at this age!) Then it is "mommy's turn" to brush her teeth. (This doesn't go over well at first, but in a few days it is fine.) I make a game of saying Ah-h-h-h while I brush. You have to just be firm for 2 or 3 days and then thats just how it is... After I'm done I give it back to her and let her have another turn. She loves to "brush" her teeth now and wants to do it several times a day. Mostly she just gets water on her brush and sucks it out, but I figure the water is good for her and it's a great habit! Also, I would recommend doing some research about a product called Xylitol. It is relatively new here in the U.S. but has been in use in Europe for quite a few years. It is available in many forms and actually strengthens teeth. We know many people who use this. Our whole family brushes our teeth with the toothpaste and we use the mints and granular forms also. The children's toothpaste is called "Spry" and is pretty much odorless and tasteless so they love it. The adult form we use is called "Epic". Like I said research it and ask your dentist about it. It's a great benefit for cavity prevention and kills the bad bacteria in your mouth. It promotes overall good oral health. Also, studies have shown that it benefits the fetus later in life when the mother uses it in her third trimester of pregnancy. I had heard of it, but figured it was a wacky, health-nut sort of thing until I read an article in Parenting Magazine about it and asked our dentist... You may not end up using it but it can't hurt to read up on it! I'm glad I did!!!

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L.M.

answers from Minneapolis on

At this age just do the best you can. One thing that has worked for me is to have one toothbrush for my son and one for me. That way he can feel like he is doing something and I actually get more time brushing in that way. Otherwise it ends up as a fight for the toothbrush. If possible brush twice a day to help get anything you missed the time before.

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S.E.

answers from Bismarck on

hello--I've been a dental hygienist for 29 years--and the best way I've found to look at their teeth, is to have them either lay their head in your lap while you sit on the couch--and use a flashlight for your light source--or sit with your legs out in front of you, and have them lay on your legs, with their head towards your feet--scoot them close towards your body--then you can get a good look--even if they are crying--at least they'll have their mouth open!Tell him you want to count his teeth to see how many he has--make it a big deal to count them--let him count yours-and look at yours with the flashlight-etc--

Always brush before bed at night--spend most of your time on the back molars--use just a pea size dot of toothpaste on the brush--let him brush first, but you always follow up on the back ones, brushing chewing surfaces the longest--at age 2-3 have him go with you for your check-up and cleaning so he can watch you have fun while you are getting yours cleaned--and maybe he'll want to sit in the chair and ride, look at all the stuff that is used--and see that nothing is painful or scary--always keep it a positive thing for him-sorry this got alittle long---good luck--keep smiling!! S.

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J.B.

answers from Minneapolis on

Overzealous brushing can cause problems. One of my babies had horrible breath, too - even with brushing, so I used an oral antiseptic called Gly-Oxide. It worked great!

SAHM of seven

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K.W.

answers from Minneapolis on

Until they are old enough to really do a good job, I am pretty sure that we are going to have to persuade them to "open wider" and all that jazz. My daughter likes to do it herself too, but only to suck on the toothbrush. I usually let her brush for a little bit and then I tell her good job and follow up behind. As long as your brushing you little boys teeth twice a day I am sure they are getting clean enough.

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S.A.

answers from Chicago on

I understand your little one wants his independence (I have a 2 yo with the same thing)but it really is advisable to follow up with brushing his teeth until he is 8 yo. Kids just miss spots. I cradle my son in my lap with one arm under mine and my arm cradles his head. That way I can also hold down the other arm and his head still at the same time. I make up silly songs about anything and brush to the beat. I get really animated so it makes him laugh and he opens up his mouth. My son's song of chioce at the moment is, "This is the way we brush our teeth..." and I sing about brushing the top, bottom, back... Hope this helps!

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B.B.

answers from Madison on

My daughter had a good portion of her teeth by the time she was 1 and it was crazy trying to brush her teeth. I was so worried I wasn't doing a good enough job and she might get a cavity. So I found a dentist office that deals solely with children and called with my problem. They actually set me up with an appointment and checked everything out. They recommended going every 6 months. It may seem excessive but honestly I just consider it one less thing to worry over.

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J.S.

answers from Minneapolis on

I'm right there with you on this one! I have a 20 month old that acts the same wa about brushing her teeth! First, I always make sure that she has a glass of water befre bed, after any juice/milk. That way I feelat least that she's "rinsing her teeth".
Oh with the tooth brushing, I have found that she allows me to use one of those rubber things with mini bristles that fit on your finger (I think it comes with some baby toothpastes?) but yes, it's a game because she bites my finger.
I have also been tring to have her pick a toothbrush (she actually does better "brushing" with my big brush?
Also, I brush with her so she can see how to "brush" and not just suck and I let her brush my teeth first and then she seems to "rub" the brush better on her own teeth instead of just suck the water and paste off.
Good luck! :)

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R.P.

answers from Omaha on

Hi Nicole,

I sit indian style on the floor and have my son lay in my lap sideways. Almost like I was going to nurse him. He lays back and looks at the ceiling and I can see inside his mouth really well. I tell him to scream with me for 2 seconds and then we both open our mouths and scream at the same time. We do this over and over, but while he has his open I can get in there with the toothbrush and really see all his teeth. Also, we just switched to one of those kiddy electric toothbrushes because I think they do a better job than the manual ones and since I've got such a limited amount of time, it works better for us. I know our method is noisy, but it works for us. Hope this suggestion helps.

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M.F.

answers from Bismarck on

I heard a dentist speak the other day & was interested to hear him say that most kids aren't able to effectively brush their teeth on their own until age 7-8, & even then may need supervision, depending on if they are getting cavities or not. To help my kids keep their mouths open, I have them "sing" while I brush their teeth. I sing a note until they match pitch (or get close), then switch to another note, & so on. Before they realize it, I'm done! Then I let them "brush". You could also have them "sing" a song they know if that is easier for you. When they get older, we brush our teeth at the same time, so they can mimic what I do. Make sure that you are brushing the top of his mouth & his tongue as best you can, as lots of odor-producing germs can hang on there. One of my daughters has bad breath often in spite of good mouth hygiene with mouth wash, etc. I was the same way when I was younger.

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E.R.

answers from Minneapolis on

I have 2 boys, 2 1/2 and almost 4 yr old, and am a Registerd dental assistant and have worked the last 6 yrs in childrens clinics. My advice is to let him brush his teeth first and then your turn after this way he feels he's part of it too. We "in the field" recommend assiting w/ brushing until children are 8-10 yrs old. they really don't have the skills yet to do it properly. There will be times that he won't want to cooperate and when that happens don't give in make sure at the very least you are brushing them before bed.
A couple of suggestions... Stinky breath try brushing tongue.
If he will cooperate I have my boys stand on a stool and come from behind/above. I tilt their heads up and stick 1 finger in one side to hold his cheek back to make sure to get along the cheeck side (those cheek muscles are stronger than you think) and same w/ the other side. I have also found if the have a wiggly tongue or it's in the way you can stick your thumb in thier mouth grasping the lower jaw and gently hold tongue down/to the side and this way you control being bitten.
If he doesnt cooperate hold him on you lap grasping hands w/ one hand and attempt to hold head still between arm and chest. You can also lie him on the floor/bed and come at him that way. But sometimes it's a 2 person job.
It's someting that you don't want to give up on it may not always be a nice time but the important thing is it needs to be done and done properly. You wouldn't believe the number of children I've seen under the age of 2 having to have teeth removed or brought to the hospital for dental work under GA.
He's not too young for his 1st dental visit if you're concerned w/ anything.

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P.K.

answers from Minneapolis on

We've always practiced taking turns in our house. My daughter can choose either morning brushing on her own or the evening...the other, she knows I have to help. You could give him a tooth pick and ask him to look at the spot himself. That is a good example for him to learn to be more careful about brushing each tooth.

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M.L.

answers from Minneapolis on

I have found that all kids like to feel responsible and getting them to brush their own teeth is a good thing. Although, we can't trust them to do the job that they need to do 100%. My suggestion is to let him have his freedom, with a little toddler toothpaste. Then when he is done, stress that you just want to double check the job he did and you go in their and brush them like he hasn't tried yet. This still lets them feel that they are doing something on their own, but yet you are able to get the stuff off like your supposed to. I did this with my daughter and it worked well. It's just like when they pick up their toys and you 'double check' to make sure they got everything.

As for an easier way to do this, I have found that if you keep the teeth brushing at the same time everyday (never skip a day because little kids need repitition in their lives), in a matter of three weeks, it should work just fine. I'm not one for giving rewards for things like this, but I've tried many things with my daughter. Find something that your child really enjoys to do and do that right after you have a successful teeth brushing. That sometimes helps kids see the light at the end of the tunnel.

M.

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N.J.

answers from Minneapolis on

my son is almost 4 and I still brush all of his teeth...the rule is I brush first then he can brush....
I used to lay him on the floor and it would take two of us to brush his teeth, one holding open the cheek and the other brushing...

do what you've gotta do to get those teeth clean. there may be tears, and screaming...but healthy teeth are important...

we also sing a song...while I brush my oldests teeth,

brush brush brush your teeth, brush them all around, brush them brush them oh so fine, brush them till they shine...

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C.S.

answers from Green Bay on

Hi,
I work really hard at keeping my toddler occupied while I brush her teeth. I sing her favorite songs and let her play with new toys. That usually is enough. If you want to get a look in his mouth you could try songs and new toys along with putting a rolled washcloth at the edge of his teeth to protect your fngers. I thought my daughter had something red in one of her molars but it turned out to be food that was stuck there. Good luck.

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T.L.

answers from Milwaukee on

I also worry that I am not brushing my 22 month old son's teeth as good as I could. He also likes to try and hold the toothbrush but cannot really brush his teeth by himself yet. He often gets things stuck in between his bottom front teeth and it is very hard to get it out. I just try to do the best I can and hope it is good enough. Sometimes it helps if he reads a book while I am brushing to kind of distract him. Maybe that will help you.

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E.L.

answers from Minneapolis on

I used the "Brush Your Teeth" song by Raafi at this age for my sons. I let them brush for the first 3 versus and then I'd do the last two and it helped a lot. Gave them the independence they wanted and they still had good breath.

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K.L.

answers from San Antonio on

Sounds familiar! We had the same issues, then found a battery-powered Sesame Street toothbrush that makes brushing our daughter's teeth so much easier and more effective! I think it might be for ages 2+, but it's got a small head and we haven't had any problems using it. It's easier for her to use, too, because it does all of the scrubbing- (just $5 from Target- OralB?)

K.C.

answers from Davenport on

Lots of good advice on here! When my kids are done brushing their teeth (when they were little) I would always praise them by saying, "Clean and white...pearly bright!" when they showed me that they had brushed their teeth (after I had helped them). As for the bad breath, little ones will get bad breath before a bowel movement, which goes away after they've gone. Keep an eye and see if this isn't what is causing the bad breath. If it isn't, then go from there to find the source.

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C.O.

answers from Minneapolis on

My 14-month-old loves brushing his own teeth but does NOT like us to take over. The only way I can make sure it gets done thoroughly is to sit on the floor with my legs spread apart in front of me, lay him on his back with his head closest to me, and hold his arms down under my thighs. It sounds kind of cruel, I know, but it doesn't hurt him at all and I get a good view of his teeth when he screams to be let up. =) I figure one minute of this "torture" for him is better than dealing with getting cavities taken care of.

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J.X.

answers from Minneapolis on

Have you tried an electric toothbrush? He may think it's totally fun and actually let you in there to brush. It also does a great job cleaning the teeth a lot faster than a regular toothbrush.

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