12 Toddler toothbrushing tips to prevent daily battles

Do you dread brushing your toddler’s teeth morning and evening? Are you seeking a variety of toddler toothbrushing tips to use now? I used to find it very stressful despite being as gentle and quick as possible. My daughter would always be hysterical at the mere mention of toothbrushing. I expected it was also to do with her general upset about bedtime approaching, but there were often meltdowns in the morning too! Read on for top toddler toothbrushing tips to beat this daily battle…

Toddler toothbrushing tips

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1. Give them due warning

Rather than springing it on toddlers, let your little one know toothbrush time is coming up. This way it doesn’t come as a complete surprise to them. Start humming a song that they can associate with the activity (see tip 9). Give them a five or ten (or both!) minute warning and say “we” so it doesn’t come across as a punishment but a shared routine activity.

2. Put your toddler in a comfortable position

Make sure they are comfortable and you have a good angle for seeing inside their mouth and reaching all the surfaces. When they are smaller, you might cradle them in your lap so they are lying back. Once they are older, they can take a seat or support them to look at themselves in the mirror.

3. Let them choose their toothbrush

Take them out to choose the colour they want, so they get can more excited by it all. You can find all kinds of themed characters, animal designs and even toothbrushes that light up. Consider having two or three for them to choose from each time. Then your toddler will feel even more in control of the process. Make it seem like another type of play so they think it’s more fun and not a chore.

4. Use an alternative or novelty toothbrush

I actually use two toothbrushes now and figure that between brief uses of both we must be covering all surfaces effectively! We start with this nifty 360-degree novelty toothbrush which they can get the knack of themselves more easily than a normal toothbrush. If your toddler is older, you might want to try an electric toothbrush especially if you use one, so they feel you use the same type.

5. Let them brush the teeth/mouth of their dolly

This is another technique to give them control and incorporate toothbrushing into playtime. It will be hard for a toddler to resist the opportunity to brush the teeth (well, closed mouth!) of their dolly. You could do this at the usual toothbrushing time or introduce it at other times during the day, so they get used to it before it’s their turn.

6. Keep it brief but effective

If adults are supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes, then it must be way less for toddlers. That’s what I tell myself anyway, as they have tiny teeth so that’s much less coverage! Be as quick as you can (if they are really upset) while covering all the surfaces the best you can. Be particularly gentle if they are still teething, as they will be sensitive in places.

If they only have a couple of teeth, you can delay the whole toothbrush stage for a little while. You can just wipe over with a damp clean cloth. Always speak to a dentist for professional advice.

toddler toothbrushing tips

7. Let them watch you brush your teeth or even help you

This one has been a game changer! Little ones love to copy what we do, so brush your teeth first or at the same time. Pretend you need help and ask them to try brushing yours (not a great experience personally, but my daughter loved it). They will then be (hopefully) less confrontational by the reversal of roles when it’s their turn. This is a useful strategy to get them to do most things they resist. Our little ones love to impersonate us and show us they can do things themselves. For instance, my daughter suddenly wants to brush her hair when she sees me brush mine.

8. Let them start and you finish

Get them involved by letting them brush their own teeth first. OK, it will be a questionable effort but they may take more kindly to you finishing the job, if they get to try themselves first. Now my daughter is verbal she tells me when she’s done and it’s my turn. Sometimes she drags it out a while but we get there.

9. Sing as you brush their teeth

Singing often calms down my little one, so we have a teethbrushing song when she really resists. The singing helps to open her mouth wide too, so I can reach the back. Even just encouraging ooh, ee’s and aah sounds helps the process! You can either go with a popular song (there are a few online I didn’t know about) or make up your own.

10. Use a reward system for successful toothbrushing

As your toddler gets older, you will find yourself using reward systems frequently. If your child responds well to stickers, then have a printable weekly chart up on the wall with reusable stickers. If they are too young to benefit or understand a reward system, instead let them bring a comfort item to the bathroom. This could be a soft toy or dolly that you can pretend to brush the teeth of, as per tip 5.

11. Use cartoons and kids’s tv shows online that show toothbrushing

I’m always grateful when a kid’s tv show or cartoon covers the subject of toothbrushing. I make a big point of saying “look at them brushing their teeth, just like you and me” to get them on board! See what you can find on your favourite kid’s channels or streaming services or search online.

12. Keep it up as part of your daily routine

Even though it can be quite stressful (for both of you!), make sure you stick with a daily routine using the above toddler toothbrushing tips. Your toddler will learn to expect this is part of your morning and bedtime sequence. If you occasionally miss it (understandably to avoid the drama!) they will only be more resistant when you bring it back in, so try to be consistent. It’s really important to take care of our little one’s teeth and teach them good habits.

Babies and toddlers don’t usually need to visit the dentist until they are at least a year old and even then they might not have many teeth. Instead of making a big deal out of it, just bring them along to your next appointment, so they can watch you being treated. Then just before you leave, the dentist can take a quick look at their teeth and hopefully give them a sticker! Ask for their advice and share concerns with your dentist if brushing their teeth remains a problem.

Remember, the key is to let your toddler feel they have a choice (even if they actually don’t!) and are in control. And try to make it playful and fun, so they don’t dread it so much. I hope these toddler toothbrushing tips help you overcome one of the many battles of the day we face with toddlers.

Read more posts on Parenting including ideas for easy (lazy!) toddler trips out.


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