Tricks for Getting Daughter to Take a Toothbrush

Updated on July 01, 2009
A.M. asks from Madison, WI
15 answers

I have a 21 month old daughter and she puts up such a fight when I try to brush her teeth. I've tried different toothbrushes with kids toothpaste, letting her brush my teeth and also an electric toothbrush. Nothing seems to work. Looking for alternative ideas if you can share them. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Dubuque on

I lay my 21 month old daughter on my bed and then just tell her a story or sing a quick song. This works well for nighttime and then so that we are not "forcing" the brushing every time, we let her hold the toothbrush and make her own teeth "shiny" in the mornings. It might not be as good of a job but sometimes letting her be in control is worth it!

We also like to use a floruide free toothpaste so that its not an issue if she swallows some. Good luck!

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answers from Appleton on

A. -
I agree with Anne-Marie. No toddler can brush their teeth adequately. It is necessary for you to do it for her. Yes, she can have a turn, but you ultimately need to do it for her at least once a day. My daughter was HORRIBLE when it came to brushing her teeth at that age. She is a very stubborn and strong willed child and she just would not do it, no matter what kind of stories I tried to come up with to distract her, etc, like all the other posts on here suggest. Finally, it sounds cruel and mean, but it took me physically holding her down and holding her hands down and brushing her teeth. Didn't take too many times and she got the message...There is no choice. Teeth must be brushed, like it or not. Now she's almost 3 and does it happily. Sounds harsh, I know, but it did work. I pray for you that it doesn't come to that and your child is more easily persuaded, but you are not a bad mom and your child will not hate you if you are left with no other option! Best of luck!!!!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Duluth on

dont do it for her. let her do it. chances are she is not going to do it "right" or "well" but the more you let her be controlling of it the more able you will be to get her to do it later.

what we did with our son is we gave him the toothbrush, and he liked to eat that toddler stuff off of it, and we would sing the ABC's (or whatever song you want to sing) and we would stop singing if he took it out of his mouth. once in a while take a few SECONDS to hold her hand and brush her teeth, showing her the process. it also helps a LOT if you brush your teeth too, even if its just the toothbrush with no paste. thats probably best, because at this point you dont want her to have your toothpaste, or even want it :P
so give it a try. let her do it, never force it, some nights it just isnt going to happen. but doing it for her is going to equate toothbrushing with the being held down and fighting - not a good attitude to have about it! just try to guide her, and show her by your example of brushing and singing distracts enough that they might just brush a longer time than you expect!

good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

What worked for my daughter at that age was counting to 20 everytime I brushed her teeth. (you could pick your own number, but that is how far my daughter can count so it works for us). Then they know what to expect and will learn as you get closer to 20 you will be done. You can speed up or slow down the counting depending on how the brushing is going. Good luck!


answers from Omaha on

Something that worked with my son was to have a "special toothbrush towel". We let him pick out a fun designed beach towel at the store. The only time we got it out was when it was time to brush his teeth. He would even get it out and ask if he could brush his teeth! We would lay the towel out on the floor and I would sit Indian style at one end. He would lay on his back on the towel with his head in my lap. This makes it much easier to see the teeth! He would let me brush his teeth like this after just a few times. We made a really big deal about the "special toothbrush towel" and that's what made it work. He's now 3 and we have no problem brushing his teeth and don't have to use the towel anymore. Good luck!



answers from St. Cloud on

I unfortunately have no advice for you, but had to share that my son is the opposite...he's 15, almost 16 months and absolutely HAS to be brushing his teeth when mommy or daddy is! He will throw a fit if we don't give him his toothbrush!



answers from Minneapolis on

One of my girlfriends had a really hard time with this and she started giving her daughter her toothbrush in the car. This way she had nothing else to do but brush her teeth. She said it works... and we mom's do whatever it takes : ) Another one of my girlfriends bought a tooth brush that plays music. I am fortunate, my daughter loves brushing her teeth... weird kid. haha


answers from Milwaukee on

you don't need to try to brush her teeth...just let her have the toothbrush with water. let her do it on her own. she'll slowly get the hang off brush on her own!



answers from St. Cloud on

Hi A.! We went throught this with my daughter. I am appalled at the many moms who don't take dental hygiene seriously. You should help your child brush their teeth until they are at LEAST 6 years old.
We told our daughter that we had to get the cavity bugs out. She brushes on her own for about a minute and then we brush whether she likes it or not. It was a battle at first but then she realized that it was part of our routine and now brushes without a fight.
There are other ways kids can be in control. They can put the toothpaste on, they can brush for a short time, etc. but teeth need to be clean!
It will not scar them for life if you hold them down to brush their teeth for 90 seconds!



answers from Madison on

Make sure the toothbrush isn't too stiff. Some of the infant ones I've gotten (specically the little einsteins ones) bristles are so stiff they made my DD's gums bleed. Also make sure they are wet before brushing. You can also just just a plain washcloth if she accepts it more.



answers from Milwaukee on

We have a 2.5 yr old and we've done two things that have seemed to help...

1) We talk about getting all the "cavity monsters" out -- because they are trying to "eat his teeth". For our son this is a fun game -- but I know for some kids talking about monsters can bring up even bigger issues

2) We encourage him to brush his favorite stuffed animals teeth right after we are done with his. Obviously we limit the water & tooth paste.

All that said -- at least 2 days out of the week it is still a struggle. I think it is just this age. Good luck.



answers from Minneapolis on

My son is almost 18 months and fights like crazy too. I took him to the dentist already [after talking with his doctor about it] because I was worried about the fact that I can only manage to brush his teeth effectively maybe once a week, and they said his teeth are perfect and look great, and to just keep trying and don't worry about not being able to brush- at least for now. As long as you are avoiding sweets, giving her extra water, and no juice or milk before bed she should be fine for now. The dental clinic we go to recommends bringing your child in at age 3, but they will see them earlier of course if you have concerns.
The only way I can get my son to cooperate is to bribe him with something he usually can't have. He gets to play with something only while I brush his teeth and I put it away as soon as we are done or if he is not cooperating. You could also try giving her one of those baby brushes that fit on a finger and let her put it on her finger. It is even more gentle than a soft toddler brush and she might like it better because she will have better control.
One thing my sister and brother in-law do is the "toothbrush" song...they head up to the bathroom singing and sing while my niece [who is 2 and a half] brushes her teeth and it's fun for her and she likes to brush her teeth now because she gets extra special attention and a performance from her parents.
Make it as much as a ritual as possible. Try to brush her teeth at the same time every day and keep doing it even if she fights you. That way she will at least anticipate it happening and be aware that it will be a daily thing from now on



answers from Minneapolis on

That age was tough for us. Here are some things that worked for us: Get creative. Make up stories about characters she likes. For example, Dora wants to go on an adventure and find fun things in her descriptive. Winnie-the-Pooh is looking for honey and needs to check in her mouth. Or pretend to go to the dentist...your lap is the dentist chair, sit on the floor with your legs straight out, she lays with her head near your stomach with her body stretched out on your legs, then she opens wide and the "dentist" checks all her teeth with the toothbrush. I had to make up tons of different stories as each one would only work for awhile.



answers from Minneapolis on

Brushing their teeth at this age is important - our dentist gave me a HUGE lecture for not brushing my son's teeth twice a day! I had always just let him do it and she lectured me that NO TODDLER is effective enough at brushing their own teeth.

One popular suggestion at our ECFE class was to use 2 toothbrushes - one for you, one for the child - and you take turns brushing their teeth. Another was "I brush yours, you brush mine."

Good Luck and keep at it!



answers from Davenport on

We've always had good luck with our boys--they generally wanted to brush their teeth whenever we brushed ours. However, my 21 month-old went through a perdod where he ONLY wanted to do it himself, which I wasn't okay with. There's a song by a children's singer "Raffi" that I have sung for many children when I used to babysit before my kids were born. It's a great song..."When you wake up in the morning, it's a quarter to one and you want to have a little fun, you brush your teeth [insert tooth brush noises here]. It goes on up to five and that's it. It's a great length and it makes it fun! If you can't find it and you want the rest of the verses, just email me. When that didn't work, I would give the choice of "the easy way or the hard way," the hard way being I would lay him down--which he didn't like and would cry about. But, his mouth was open, I gently brushed and then we were done.
Don't worry too much, it's usually just a phase that they will grow out of. Good luck!

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