Tips for Toddler Tooth Brushing

When it comes time to brush their teeth, does your toddler run screaming for the hills? Or better yet, maybe they don’t run, they just scream?

We’ve been there! Emmett is a pro at holding the toothbrush and pretending to brush, but when it comes time for mommy or daddy to get in there, it’s a battle. Since we’ve struggled so much over the last several months, I thought I’d share some of the tips that I’ve come across in my search for toothbrushing GREATNESS! My hope is that you will find success with at least one of them, or maybe a mix of several.

When it comes to brushing their teeth, most toddlers are more interested in sucking the toothpaste off of the brush, chewing on the bristles or just plain splashing in the water. But, there are ways that you can correct this behavior, and get their pearly, baby whites, brushed.
Tips for Toddler Tooth Brushing - Baby Doodah

Methods We’ve Tried

We’ve tried a few different methods with Emmett, in hopes that one of them would work and he’d understand how to better brush his teeth.

  • Start SUPER Early – I think Emmett only had 3 or 4 teeth, when we started giving him his toothbrush. We used fluoride free toothpaste, but we wanted to get him in the practice of tooth brushing so he knew what it felt like.
    • This worked to an extent. He’s always understood what he’s supposed to do with a toothbrush, but he struggles to allow us in their to brush.
  • Mimicking – Next, we tried giving him his brush, and then myself or Seamus would brush alongside him. You’d think this would work, but, not so much. He’d hold his toothbrush just outside his mouth and then mimic in the air what we had been doing.
    • We did eventually progress to the point where he was putting it in his mouth and pretending, but he was still just wiggling the toothbrush around and not getting anything done.
  • Make it a Game – We both would have our toothbrush and we’d work to see who could clean our teeth the fastest.
    • I didn’t really rush. I’d pretend to go rrrreally slow, so that Emmett could win – then we’d do our toothbrush dance. He loved this, and giggled a lot, but his teeth still weren’t really getting clean.
  • Practice at Day Care – They were starting a unit on brushing their teeth, so we brought in a toothbrush and toothpaste for Emmett. I honestly feel as though this was the more effective method, thus far.
    • We’d continue with the mimicking, or the game, but now he was actually brushing on his teeth (in the front, mostly). I was still having trouble getting him to do the back, but I took this as a win, since he was brushing something!
  • Forced Brushing – This has definitely been our least favorite, but we don’t want him to get cavities at 2, so we do the brushing. Fair warning: This isn’t fun!! Emmett hates this!
    • We’ll take the tooth brush, and try to make it fun (ie: singing songs, being goofy), but he just pushes us away and gets mad. So, we started having one or the other parent hold Emmett while the other brushes. It’s not the end goal that I want, but for now, as we still work on getting him to do it alone, at least his toothers are getting clean!


We did some research and asked for some advice on Facebook, and we have a few more ideas to try, if things don’t naturally start going better.

  • Tooth Brushing App – One of my friends on Facebook suggested using an app that encourages kids to brush their teeth. We are loving this idea and will probably try it next.
    • Here’s the app we’ll try first, Aquafresh Brush Time USA. I think one of the most fun parts, for us, is that the child gets their own nurdle (the name of the character), and each time they complete a toothbrush session, they get a star that adds up, which can be used to buy clothes for their nurdle.
  • Use a Powered Toothbrush – This suggestion came from Facebook as well – Emmett is occasionally afraid of things that move on their own, that he doesn’t understand. However, if we bought one and allowed him to play around with it for awhile he might be okay with it. This would almost force him to brush, since the head of the toothbrush is already spinning.
  • Tooth Brush Sticker Chart – This one is pretty basic, but you create (or find on Pinterest), a sticker chart that can be used every time they brush their teeth successfully. Emmett is a sucker for stickers, so this could be very effective.
  • Be Patient! Probably the hardest one for me! It’s easy to get frustrated when time is ticking away and your toddler is still slowly moving the toothbrush around. But, it’s important to remember to give them all the time they need (within reason), so that it doesn’t push them away from brushing in the future.

After doing the research for this article, I feel better knowing that fighting with your toddler to brush their teeth is pretty darn normal. Not that I thought Emmett was weird, more that I just was at a loss for what to do. Now, I’m armed and dangerous! 😛

Your turn!

Do you or have you struggled with getting your toddler(s) to brush their teeth? 

What tips do you have for other moms?

Share in the comments below!

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11 Responses to Tips for Toddler Tooth Brushing

  1. Logan Can says:

    This is SO helpful! We have had a hard time all of a sudden with my 17 month old. I’m thinking it may be because his 2 year molers are coming in.

  2. Heather H says:

    Great post! When my twins were toddlers we pretended to look for zoo animals in their mouths, as in “I see a zebra in there – hold still while I catch him.” When they were about 4 they had Hello Kitty toothbrushes which I make “talk” to them. Now they are 5 and we use the brushes with the light up timer, and they brush on their own most days.

    • Jillian416 says:

      Heather! That is a fantastic idea!! I love it. Emmett is really into animals and such. I think I might adopt this idea with him. 🙂

  3. Kimberly says:

    Great tips. Pinned and tweeted. We appreciate you being a part of our party. Please stop by on Monday at 7 pm. Happy Saturday! Lou Lou Girls

  4. Jordan Baker says:

    I really liked your idea to make teeth brushing a game. It seems like a lot of children just dread the idea of brushing their teeth. However, that just seems like foolishness to me. It is important to make sure that they are having fun while doing it. Otherwise, they may lose a little bit of motivation to brush on their own.

    • Jillian416 says:

      That’s exactly what we did with our son. We made it a game and now he loves to brush his teeth. We also make sure he has a fun toothbrush, which helps motivate him, too.

  5. Silas Knight says:

    Getting my baby to enjoy brushing her teeth is a big deal for me. I like the idea of starting when she barely has any teeth. You are right, I’m sure, that the earlier she gets used to it, the better off she’ll be.

  6. Brian says:

    A tooth brushing app sounds like a great idea! I’m sure it makes brushing your teeth a lot more fun!

  7. Ryan says:

    These are great tips for toddler tooth brushing! I’ve heard from a lot of people that do the sticker chart and have had success from it! Thanks for sharing!

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