toddler brushing her teeth

My Toddler Loves to Brush Her Teeth. Here’s How.

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For the parent of a toddler brushing teeth can be a labor of love. Just like most kids hate having their faces washed, they often despise brushing their teeth. And if you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know that they can be STUBBORN

At 18-months old, our baby girl loves to brush her teeth and have her teeth brushed. The following are the tools and steps we took. I hope they help.

PLEASE NOTE: The following is not intended to be medical advice. If, at any time, you feel unsure about how to care for your child, please speak to your child’s doctor.

How Often Should You Brush Your Baby’s Teeth?

Experts recommend you start brushing your baby’s teeth twice a day as soon as their first teeth erupt. The second brushing is supposed to be after their last meal, whether that be solids or milk. Some experts even recommend cleaning a baby’s gums before they get teeth. 

These are amazing goals. We didn’t come close. We introduced a toothbrush at 12 months and gradually built Pepper’s comfort and excitement. We now brush 1 – 2 times a day. 

The evening brush has become part of our daily routine, but we’re still struggling to make the morning brush part of it. What can I say — I’m far from a perfect mom. 

Toddler looking at her toothbrush.

Our Favorite Toddler Toothbrush

We tried several different baby toothbrushes. All of them would have been perfectly adequate, but the Brush Baby BabySonic Infant and Toddler Electric Toothbrush was the clear winner.

An electric toddler toothbrush, the vibration mimicked mom’s. The light-up toothbrush headed added a fun element. And, the two-minute timer has helped her know we’re not done until the toothbrush has turned off.

Our Favorite Toddler Toothpaste

Babies and toddlers swallow things. Thinking they won’t swallow toothpaste is pure craziness. When you select a toothpaste, make sure it’s something that’s safe if they swallow it.

That’s why we’ve always used Tom’s of Maine Natural Children’s Fluoride Toothpaste, Silly Strawberry. And you don’t need to use a lot. Remember your baby’s mouth is small. They only need a small amount of toothpaste.

mom helping her toddler brush her teeth

4 Steps to Successfully Brushing Your Baby’sTeeth

Brushing your child’s teeth helps reduce the chance of tooth decay and promotes a healthy smile. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get your kid to buy-in. How to brush toddler teeth is a concern for all parents.

The following steps worked for us — eventually. Initially, my toddler wouldn’t let me brush her teeth.

1. Show and Tell

Babies and toddlers love to mimic. It’s one of the primary ways they learn. As you introduce your child’s first toothbrush, show them yours.

Demonstrate how you use yours. Talk to them about what you’re doing. (They understand WAY more than we think.) You want them to know this is a perfectly normal and comfortable part of your routine.

To this day, I still brush my teeth when Pepper does. And, I use her toothpaste because I always try and do some of the brushing with my own toothbrush. 

2. Use a Toddler Kitchen Helper Let Them See Themselves

Babies and toddlers love mirrors. Mirrors are also an excellent teaching tool. (Just think of how many exercise classes utilize them to help you perfect your form!)

As you start introducing the toothbrush to your child, let them watch themselves using it. We found that the best way to do this was with our toddler kitchen helper.

The kitchen helper (aka a learning tower), is an elevated stool with a wide base and guard rails. This added height allowed our daughter to see herself while she brushed. If your child’s not ready for a learning tower, you may also consider moving their high chair into the bathroom.  

Note: It’s definitely more work to bring the kitchen helper or high chair into the bathroom each time you brush. (What isn’t more work with kids?) Eventually we dispensed with it because she no longer needed it to be excited. That being said, I imagine in the coming months we’ll bring in a small step so she can reach the sink.

3. Don’t Force It

Oral health is a serious concern for many parents and rightly so. It can have a serious, long-term impact on your child’s health.

That being said, I’ve felt like a few poor or missed brushing sessions in their early days isn’t the end of the world. Helping my daughter develop a healthy relationship with brushing her teeth was far more important to me. And for us, that meant not traumatizing her by forcing the issue. 

Take it slow. Make it fun. Let them explore having a toothbrush in their mouth.

4. Offer Lots of Praise

Kids feed off praise. I learned this on day one with breastfeeding. The more praise I delivered when Pepper ate, the better she was at latching and draining my boob.

This same principle proved true with brushing her teeth. We offer lots of praise throughout the process. We smile and clap when we’re done and as we put our toothbrushes away. 

Bonus Tip: Brush Your Toddler’s Teeth BEFORE Putting on PJs

The chances of your toddler swallowing toothpaste are high. The chances of your toddler drooling toothpaste all over their face, clothes, and floor are also extremely high.

When possible, try and brush your toddler’s teeth at night before you put them in their PJs. This helps reduce the risk of having to change them. Because I can attest, the drool situation is real.

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