The Art of Toddler Tooth Brushing: Tips, Tricks, and Tales from a Dentist

Tooth brushing in toddlers can feel like a never-ending battle. As a dentist with years of experience in oral hygiene and and a father 2 young kids, I’ve seen it all: the stubborn refusals, the creative distractions, and the triumphant cheers when a brushing session finally goes smoothly. In this blog post, I’ll share my insights on making tooth brushing a positive experience for both you and your little one. From choosing the right equipment to handling the most determined little non-brushers, let’s dive into the world of toddler tooth brushing.

The Importance of Early Oral Hygiene

First, let’s talk about why brushing those tiny teeth is so crucial. Baby teeth may be temporary, but they play a significant role in your child’s overall health and development. Healthy baby teeth help with proper chewing, speech development, and maintaining space for adult teeth. Starting good oral hygiene early sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy habits.

Choosing the Right Toothbrush and Toothpaste


I once had a mother who was struggling to brush her toddler’s teeth because the brush kept slipping out of her child’s hand. We switched to a toothbrush with a thicker, rubberized handle, and the problem was solved. Her toddler loved the new brush so much that she wanted to hold it herself during every brushing session!

Selecting the right toothbrush for your toddler is the first step. Here’s what to look for:

  • Soft Bristles: Toddlers have delicate gums, and soft bristles are gentle on their mouths.
  • Small Head: A small toothbrush head fits comfortably in a toddler’s mouth, allowing for better maneuverability.
  • Comfortable Handle: Ensure the handle is easy for both you and your child to grip.

Choosing toothpaste is equally important. Here are some tips:

  • Fluoride Content: Use a fluoride toothpaste to help prevent cavities. For children under three, use a smear the size of a grain of rice; for children aged three to six, use a pea-sized amount.
  • Flavor: Find a flavor your child likes. Fruity or mild mint flavors are often more appealing to toddlers than strong minty ones.

Tip: One of my young patients refused to open his mouth for the traditional mint toothpaste. We switched to a strawberry-flavored one, and he opened wide with a smile every time after that!

The Dos and Don’ts of Toddler Tooth Brushing

  1. Start Early: Begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they erupt. This helps them get used to the sensation.
  2. Make It Fun: Turn brushing into a game. Use songs, timers, or even apps designed to make tooth brushing enjoyable.
  3. Lead by Example: Brush your teeth alongside your child. Toddlers love to imitate their parents.
  4. Be Consistent: Brush twice a day, every day. Consistency is key to establishing good habits.
  5. Use Positive Reinforcement: Praise your child after every brushing session. Use stickers or a reward chart to motivate them.

Tip A mum once shared that she and her daughter would have a “toothbrushing dance party” every night. They played their favorite song and danced while brushing, turning a mundane task into a highlight of their day.

  1. Don’t Rush: Give yourself enough time to brush your child’s teeth thoroughly. Rushing can lead to missed spots and an unpleasant experience.
  2. Don’t Force It: If your child is resisting, take a break and try again later. Forcing the issue can create negative associations with tooth brushing.
  3. Don’t Forget the Gums and Tongue: Gently brush the gums and tongue to remove bacteria and keep the whole mouth clean.
  4. Avoid Sticky Sweets Before Bed: Sticky sweets can cling to teeth and cause cavities, especially if not brushed off before bedtime.

Tip One parent told me how they used to rush through brushing, leading to nightly meltdowns. They started brushing earlier in the evening when everyone was less tired, and it made a world of difference.

Handling Tooth Brushing Resistance

Many parents face challenges when their toddlers refuse to let them brush their teeth. Here are some strategies to overcome this common hurdle:

Make It a Team Effort

Let your child brush your teeth while you brush theirs. This turns the experience into a fun, interactive game rather than a chore.

Tip A dad shared that his son loved brushing his teeth, but hated when anyone tried to brush his. They started taking turns—his son would brush daddy’s teeth first, and then daddy would brush his. It worked like a charm!

Use Distractions

Sing songs, tell stories, or let your child hold a favorite toy while you brush their teeth. These distractions can make the process smoother and more enjoyable.

Anecdote: One mum used to make up silly stories about the “tooth fairy warriors” who needed their help to keep their teeth sparkling clean. Her daughter was so enthralled by the stories that she looked forward to brushing time.

Offer Choices

Giving your child a sense of control can reduce resistance. Let them choose their toothbrush or toothpaste flavor, or decide which part of their mouth to brush first.

Tip A clever parent let her son choose between two toothbrushes every night. He loved making the choice, and it turned a nightly struggle into a seamless routine.

Establish a Routine

Consistency helps children know what to expect. Establish a regular tooth brushing routine that fits into your daily schedule, such as brushing after breakfast and before bedtime.

Professional Help

If despite all your efforts, brushing remains a major battle, don’t hesitate to seek help from your pediatric dentist. We can offer personalized advice and even demonstrate techniques to make the process easier.


Tooth brushing in toddlers is an essential but often challenging task. With the right tools, techniques, and a bit of creativity, you can turn this daily routine into a positive experience. Remember, the goal is to instill good habits that will last a lifetime. Be patient, stay consistent, and don’t be afraid to make it fun. Happy brushing!

Tip: One of my favorite success stories is of a mom who transformed tooth brushing time into a superhero mission. Each night, her son donned a cape and they battled “cavity monsters” together. Not only did this make brushing fun, but it also helped her son understand the importance of keeping his teeth clean.

By embracing these tips and adding your own personal touch, you can conquer the tooth brushing challenge and ensure your toddler’s smile stays bright and healthy.

Read the story of Oliver as he transform into a fierce warrior, ready to defend his mouth from the bristly tooth brush invader.

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