Brushing teeth is a battle for most parents. It’s either struggling to get your baby or toddler’s teeth clean, teaching your preschooler to spit between brushing, talking about the importance of good hygiene with your child, checking for missed spots… basically, it’s always something when it comes to teeth.
Here are some tips we’ve come up with to hopefully make your morning and evening teeth brushing routine an easier one.
Baby/Toddler– Distractions or redirection of attention
- Hollie uses the running water in the sink to distract her toddler.
- Sing a song or make silly faces while opening and closing your mouth as babies love to mimic your facial expressions.
- Start brushing your baby’s gums at an early age (with your finger wrapped in a washcloth or with a special gum brush). This helps them get used to the fact that you will be sticking something inside their mouth multiple times a day for a very long time to come.
- If you have an older child and a toddler, get the two kids the same toothbrush (label them so you know which is which). My 3.5-year-old uses an electric Thomas toothbrush. We found that as soon as we got the 18-month-old the same toothbrush, he was more into brushing his teeth!
- Give your baby or toddler a bath toy or waterproof book to play with/look at while brushing their teeth.
- Face your baby/toddler towards the mirror so they can see what is going on. Sometimes they just need to see and be in on the action.
- Do not use toothpaste or use natural/safe toothpaste products as you’re not supposed to use toothpaste with a child that cannot spit excess toothpaste into the sink.
Preschooler– Make it fun and interesting
- Buy a snazzy electric toothbrush (they have them at Target for $5) that is covered in pictures of Thomas or Cars or whatever your child is obsessing over.
- Tell your preschooler stories about how everyone brushes their teeth (even the animals at the Zoo! Yes, make it silly… it helps pass the time).
- Let your preschooler pick out their very own toothbrush and toothpaste while out shopping.
- Invest in a stopwatch, clock or alarm that acts as a visual for your preschooler. Anticipating a “ding” or flashing lights once the counter gets to “0” is pretty exciting for a young child.
- Do it with your preschooler. Make sure you brush your child’s teeth for at least 2 minutes and then if they want to do it on their own (which most preschoolers do) let them “brush” after you have finished cleaning their teeth.
- Teach your preschooler how to spit excess toothpaste (and saliva) between sections of the mouth. Remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.
- Buy a fun step stool for in front of the sink. It gives your preschooler a sense of independence when they have their own little spot (especially if it has their name or favorite character on it).
Child– help, check, teach and keep consistent!
- Buy a soft toothbrush or an electric toothbrush and teach your child how to use it (teaching them how to use it prevents the bristles from going flat within the first week).
- Never assume that your older child (age 6-10) can brush their teeth effectively on their own. Help by staying near by and reminding your child to do each section.
- Check after your child brushes and follow up with any additional brushing that is needed.
- Make flossing easy with flossing tools made especially for children.
- Set a timer or use a 2 minute sand clock. It’s important to get your child in the habit of the time it takes to effective brush his/her teeth.
- Make it part of their daily routine with a checklist, sticker chart or schedule.