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Creative Dental Care For Kids Who Hate Brushing Their Teeth

October 18, 2019 ABC Children's Dentistry

Dental care for kids can feel impossible when you spend every morning and evening fighting with a child who hates to brush their teeth. However, pediatric oral care is important and this means you have to find a way to get them involved in caring for their teeth. Creative thinking is a great way to get your child on board with caring for their teeth independently.

4 Creative Ways To Get Your Toddler’s Teeth Brushed

Thousands of parents are faced with how to brush a toddler’s teeth without them putting up a fight. First of all, think about what your baby likes. Do they have a favorite storybook or TV show? Who is their favorite character? 

The answers to these questions can help you decide on creative ways to get your toddler to brush their teeth and enjoy it. Remember, as your child gets older you may have to change your tactics to coincide with their interests.

1 – Peek-a-Boo Copycat

If your child is under the age of one, then this game may get their attention. It is a creative combination of peek-a-boo and Simon Says. Your baby is at an age where they will not understand either game in detail, but they can be played in a way that will get your child on board with brushing their teeth. 

Dentistry for kids - peek a boo copycat

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Get the toothbrush ready by applying just a smear of toothpaste or a pea-size amount of toothpaste if the child is older.
  • Set your baby on the sink counter or your lap. It may be easier to set them on your lap at the table with them facing you.
  • Start by playing peek-a-boo, except at the end of your boo leave your mouth open wide in an “O” shape. Ask your baby to mock you by saying an exaggerated boo.
  • Carefully touch the brush to their front teeth and see what their reaction is. 
  • Take the brush out and do all the steps again. This time, try to brush one tooth.

If they are having fun, continue to play. If the baby is hesitating and dislikes the toothbrush, then give it a break. However, keep playing the game. Do not give up, just do not force brushing your toddler’s teeth if they begin showing signs of discomfort. 

Depending on your child’s age and abilities, it will also be a good idea to let them hold their toothbrush and try brushing their teeth. This may be the way to go if they do start getting upset. It allows them to have more control. You may be able to gently guide the back of the handle while they have it in their mouth, which will allow some of the teeth to get brushed correctly.

2 – Music While We Brush

Does your toddler have a favorite song? If so, it may help you get the job done. Allow your baby to enjoy music when brushing their teeth. Dance around while preparing the toothbrush and let your baby be focused on the music. 

pediatric oral care - music

 Make it clear that at certain parts of the song we have to brush our teeth. Perhaps when the chorus comes on, we open our mouths wide and scrub, scrub, scrub. Then your toddler can return to bebopping along until the chorus returns. This will help you make a guideline for their mouths. Say your baby has a full set of teeth, so you want to get all sides clean. Each chorus will allow you to focus on a different area.  

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Choose a song your child loves.
  • Prepare the toothbrush with the correct amount of toothpaste.
  • Allow your toddler to enjoy the song, but to freeze and brush their teeth during the chorus. 
  • Make sure it is a special song and they only get to listen to it while brushing their teeth. This will make them want to brush their teeth, as it is something they truly enjoy. 

3 – Mimic Animal Sounds

What child doesn’t love animals? You can make this a special game between you and your child when it’s time to brush their teeth. Maybe make up a deck of animal cards and let them pick out 10 different animals. This will make it a challenge and exciting to see which animals they draw each time they brush their teeth.

pediatric dentist - make animal sounds

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Prepare your child’s toothbrush with the correct amount of toothpaste. 
  • Allow them to choose cards from their animal deck. 
  • Do not let them look at them, as they will turn them over one by one.
  • The first card should be turned over and the child will make the animal sound.
  • They are to freeze afterward and allow you 10 seconds to brush a portion of their teeth. 
  • You then remove the toothbrush and let them flip over the next card.
  • Keep going until all ten cards are done.

If your child becomes bored after the first 5 cards, call it quits for the day. You do not want to force them, as you were able to make a great start on cleaning their teeth. Simply try for more each time you play and gauge how your child is reacting. 

4 – Brush Mr. Bear’s Teeth

If your child is one or under, they may not react well because they want to hold the toothbrush. Simply have two toothbrushes, one which has toothpaste and another they can hold while you are brushing. 

how to get a toddler to brush their teeth

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Prepare the toothbrush.
  • Bring in a favorite stuffed animal or baby doll.
  • Give your baby a toothbrush without toothpaste, so they can brush their stuff animal’s teeth while you brush theirs. 
  • If they want to stick their toothbrush in their mouth let them. They are simply seeing how it feels and exploring what they can do. 

This is a fantastic way to get your child on board with oral hygiene. Most kids like playing with real objects. Think about it, so many little kids like to play doctor. So, why not let them play the dentist too. Dentistry for kids should not be scary. If we as parents approach it the right way, they will have a great time seeing their dentist.  

When to Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth

Pediatric dentistry is vital to a child’s oral care. The big question is, when should a parent begin caring for their baby’s teeth? The moment that your baby’s first tooth pops up out of the gums you should begin caring for it. The earlier you introduce good oral care, the more likely your child is going to jump on board. 

Their first toothbrush should have the following:

  • Soft bristles – You want it to be easy on their gums and new teeth. 
  • Small head – Your baby’s mouth is very small, so ensure you get a brush made for them, not an adult. 
  • Large Handle – You want to get your toddler involved in their oral care, so a large handle will make it easy for them to hold.

You will want to use a toothpaste that is formulated for kids. Do not use too much, it will only take a small amount to brush their tooth or teeth. It is recommended that you only use a pea-size amount of toothpaste. 

Dentistry for kids

Fluoride toothpaste can be introduced once your child hits the age of three. You will need to brush your child’s teeth until they reach an age where their dexterity has developed. This is usually around the age of 8.

When Should You Take Your Toddler to a Dentist?

Dentistry for children should begin around the age of one or when they get their first tooth. Your toddler’s dentist will be able to give you advice on proper oral care for children. Although baby teeth will fall out, it is important that you care for them correctly. It will give your child the best outcome for their future oral health. 

Pediatric Dental Advice will Include:

  • Baby tooth care
  • Teething
  • Fluoride
  • Thumb sucking and bottle usage
  • Infant feeding habits
  • Pacifier habits

What Not to do When Teaching Your Toddler to Brush Their Teeth

Many toddlers do not want to take the time to brush their teeth, because they are too busy trying to explore and do other exciting things. The absolute worst thing you can do as a parent is force a child to brush their teeth. This will only make them hate it more. 

Dentists for kids -brushing their teeth

Here are things you should never do when trying to brush your toddler’s teeth:

  • Hold them down – Children of all ages hate to be restricted.
  • Shove a toothbrush in their mouth – Never just force an object into a baby’s mouth. Let them see it so that they know it is not scary.
  • Try to brush teeth when they are already upset – Never go about brushing a baby’s teeth if they are already upset about something else. Calm them down and get their mind off what is upsetting them first. 
  • Never make a scary story out of oral care – While we want kids to understand cavities are bad, we do not want them to believe a monster lives in their mouth.
  • Punish them for not opening their mouth – If your toddler is reluctant to open their mouth then you need to give it some time and try again. Punishing them will only make them more hesitant to open their mouth the next time around.   

Most adults hate going to the dentist every six months, and we expect our babies to enjoy opening their mouths to allow us to clean their teeth twice a day. It’s common sense, and if we do not succeed, then pick it back up the next day. Kids who don’t brush their teeth were often taught in a forceful manner. 

Never give up on brushing your toddler’s teeth, but being forceful is not the answer. You need to start small and work your way up. With any type of habit, it takes time to catch on. Your child’s oral care is no different. 

Buying Your Kids First Toothbrush

If you want to get your baby involved, take them on a special trip to pick out their first toothbrush. Choosing their toothbrush will help them connect to it, and get them excited about using it. They will more than likely go for a brush that sports their favorite character or color. Let them get it, as it will have a huge impact on the way they brush their teeth. 

Story Books About Kids Brushing Their Teeth

Most children love to read books. If your child loves a good story, it would be a great idea to get a book about brushing your teeth. This is something you can read to them from an early age, perhaps even before their first tooth erects from their gums. 

This is the perfect first step in dentistry for children. Also, a great solution for the dreaded question of how to get a toddler to brush their teeth. 

Toddler’s teeth - dental care for kids

Here are some toddler books about kids brushing their teeth. 

  • Behold, No Cavities (Nickelodeon – SpongeBob Squarepants)
  • Open Wide: Tooth School Inside
  • The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist
  • You Think It’s Easy Being the Tooth Fairy?
  • The Tooth Book: A Guide to Healthy Teeth and Gums
  • Just Going to the Dentist (Little Critter)
  • Bear’s Loose Tooth
  • The Night Before the Tooth Fairy
  • Arthur’s Tooth (Arthur Adventure Series)
  • Dear Tooth Fairy

Cartoons About Kids Brushing Their Teeth

All children are different, and taking a different approach to get your kids to brush their teeth may be necessary. If your child loves to watch cartoons, then this may be a great way to introduce some characters who have experience with brushing their teeth and going to the dentist. This may or may not have a great impact on your child and help them see that brushing their teeth can be fun.

Here are some cartoons that may get your child interested in brushing their teeth.

  • WonderGrove Kids Brush Your Teeth S5 E12
  • Whiskers Doesn’t Like Brushing Teeth 
  • Elmo Toddler Brushing Teeth  
  • Brush Along With Budd! Brushing Teeth song and dance!
  • Learn How To Brush Your Teeth Properly With Baby Tooth & Make the Tooth Fairy Happy!
  • Chotoonz WonderGirl Brush Your Teeth

Songs for Kids About Brushing Their Teeth

Dentists for kids often suggest picking out a song to help get your child into brushing their teeth. Good oral care is a vital part of being healthy and that is why it’s important to get your child in the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day.

Here are some songs about brushing your teeth that your child may find fun and exciting. 

  • Sesame Street: Healthy Teeth, Healthy Me: Brushy Brush PSA
  • Toothbrushing Song 
  • Plants vs. Zombies & the ADA Present: Stop Zombie Mouth!
  • KidsTV123 Brush Your Teeth
  • Sesame Street: Kids Just Love to Brush
  • Tooth Brushing Song by Blippi 

Don’t Be Shy…Show Your Little One How it is Done

You are making all this fuss about your toddler brushing their teeth, well make sure they see you brushing yours. Many times, children learn by the things that their parents do, so make it a habit to allow your child to watch you brush your teeth. Answer any questions they may have, and maybe play the games you play with them during your teeth brushing session. This will help them completely connect what should happen when they brush their teeth.

Taking Your Child to the Dentist for the First Time

Make sure you tell your child all about the dentist. Do not let them be frightened or surprised about what will happen during their visit. Take the time to explain how a dentist’s visit will go. Even if your child is only 12 months old, they will listen to you. It is best to schedule an appointment early in the morning so your child is fresh and alert.

Here is what to expect at your child’s first dental appointment:

  • The first visit will last between 30 to 45 minutes depending on your child’s behavior.
  •  It will depend on your child’s age, as to what the exam may include. A full exam will include teeth, jaws, bite, gums, and oral tissues to check growth and development.
  • If required, your kid’s dentist may offer a gentle first cleaning.
  • Your dentist will offer advice for oral care at home and work with your child on how to brush their teeth. 

Proactive Dental Care for Kids

Prevention starts right at home. You want to get your child into good habits so that they will follow them throughout their life. 

Creative Dental Care For Kids - first visit

Here are some tips to help keep your kid’s teeth protected.

  • Be Proactive – Before teeth erupt you can begin by caring for your toddler’s gums. This will feel good to swollen gums and help with the teething process. Get a clean cloth slightly damp and rub it over both their top and bottom gums.
  •  Brush Teeth When They Pop Through – Many parents like to use a soft silicone finger brush at first because they are easy to control and less intimidating to your baby. Gently brush your baby’s teeth as they appear. You will not want to use a lot of toothpaste (just a smear is enough), as you will only be brushing a few teeth at first. 
  •  Prevent Bottle Tooth Decay – Stop giving your baby a bottle at bedtime. It is especially important that if they do take a bottle during nap time or bedtime that the contents do not contain milk, juice or sweetened liquid. Make it water, otherwise, your baby’s teeth will be prone to decay.
  • Be involved – You Should help brush your child’s teeth until they reach the age of 7 or 8. This will ensure they are getting proper oral care.
  • Sugary Foods and Drinks – Put a limit on sugar intake. This would include any type of candies or drinks that have large amounts of sweetener added to them. If your baby wants a sweet snack, offer them fruit rather than juice. It has fiber in it and will help promote the cleaning of teeth. Juice tends to be very sugary. 
  • Sharing of food — Do not allow any sharing of food or utensils (child to child or parent to child) as it will introduce bacteria that cause cavities to the child’s mouth.

Do You Have a Suggestion?

All parents handle dental care for kids differently. What works for one parent may not work for another. We have come up with some creative ways to get your toddler on board with brushing their teeth, but we would love to hear from you!  Do you have a different approach to brushing a toddler’s teeth? Comment below and let us know what kind of creative fun you and your kids have while brushing their teeth. 

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist and give your kid’s dental care a bright future.