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Getting your child to brush can be a challenging task. Children are not motivated by necessity, but rather by fun and pleasure. Making this activity enjoyable for your little one will go a long way in establishing a life-long routine that will keep your child smiling and healthy.

Start Early.

Cleaning your newborn’s gums after every meal not only prevents gum infection, but also helps to get them accustomed to the feeling of a clean mouth. Use a soft, damp washcloth, gauze or finger brush to gently clean their gums with warm water.


Let your child play with a toothbrush. Have them brush their favorite teddy bear’s “teeth” with it. Make it seem fun. Come up with a special song that you and your child can sing while they brush.

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

Toddlers copy everything they see. Brush your teeth in front of them and exaggerate your excitement. Even let them “brush” your teeth for you. Getting older siblings involved is a great idea.

Give Them Control.

Toddlers love to be in control. Let them pick out a brush in the store. Keep a few brushes at home and ask your child to choose one every night. This task will make brushing seem like something they are choosing to do.

No Paste —No Problem.

Toothpaste is not as critical to brushing as the act of brushing itself. Some kids have a pretty strong aversion to certain tastes. Experiment with different pastes to see which one they like best or use just a damp brush, sans the paste.

Take Time.

Give yourself enough time. Toddlers are notorious for stalling. If you are in a rush, they will sense your irritation and will be less likely to cooperate.

Try a technique called show-tell-do that most dentists use to comfort children. Let them experience a new toothbrush first. Show them how soft it gets under water and let them apply toothpaste. Explain why brushing is important in a simple, child-friendly way — “We have to brush our teeth so that they can stay strong, white and healthy just like we wash our hands when we use the potty.” Then, help them perform the act of brushing their teeth. Do not threaten with cavities or a visit to the dentist.

Take Turns.

Toddlers are known for wanting to do everything themselves, but cannot thoroughly brush their teeth on their own until they have the dexterity to write in cursive. Brush your child’s teeth yourself first and let them finish up after you.

Get Props.

Brushing is a boring chore and two minutes of it can seem like an eternity to an active toddler. Use toys to keep them busy and having fun. A sand tooth timer works great for this.

Be Patient.

If your child meets your efforts with resistance or escalates to a tantrum, wait until they calm down to resume. Comfort them and try again after they have cooled down.

Don’t force them, but be firm and consistent with your message that brushing is important to you. Eventually they will catch on and quit fighting you. Forcing them to brush is likely to backfire with even greater resistance.

Helping your child to develop a good brushing habit early will send the message that dental health is important. They will grow and continue to brush long after they need your help to achieve a clean mouth. Teach your child to properly brush and know that their happy smile is a healthy one too!