How can I make toothbrushing fun for bub? (and easier for me!)

Amy - posted on 01/05/2011 ( 21 moms have responded )

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For quite some time now, I've been brushing my 20 month old baby girl's teeth with a baby toothbrush and water. No paste yet, as I tried it once and she didn't spit *anything* out!

At first, she would resist fairly mildly - pulling away, turning her head. But if I got her cornered and staying still, she'd accept it quite well. Singing, and allowing her to hold her hands under the running tap (I know, a waste, but it works!) also seemed to help - at first. One of her favourite DVDs has a song about teeth brushing, which was good while it was a novelty.

However, now I've had to shut the bathroom door to stop her running away, and she now screams for Daddy. The way she screams makes it sound like I'm hurting her!

I've made recent efforts to reduce the trauma - holding the brush so it can't go too far in and prod her in the back of the mouth... talking soothingly throughout... even explaining how teeth can end up hurting if you don't keep them clean, I don't want you in pain because I love you, that's why I'm brushing your teeth, etc. I know how to get her still with her mouth open by force, so I can get her teeth clean, but I think doing that just makes the problem worse! Any suggestions on how I can de-escalate this situation?

As a side note, I'm working on teaching her to spit, and when that shows some sign of working, I may try toothpaste. Maybe the taste will help to motivate her (at least when it's still new)? Thanks for any and all suggestions!

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Leanne - posted on 01/14/2011

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Ditto with the training toothpaste. My son hates the mint flavoured stuff, but the fruity stuff is acceptable (to him!). At first things went well with us brushing his teeth too, then we had a bit of a fight on our hands with him clamping his mouth shut. My son is a huge routine buff so I started sitting him on the counter, making him smile (silly noises, funny faces, etc) and getting the toothbrush in for a quick brush. Then I let him 'brush' his teeth afterwards. For about a week I didn't get in his mouth for more than 20 seconds before he'd clamp shut, but once that became routine he started letting me brush longer.
Now our routine is this: I sit him on the counter and brush his teeth for about 30-60 seconds (he'll even let me poke around at molars and floss once in a blue moon if he's got something caught in his bottom teeth -they're crooked). Then he gets his toothbrush and he can stand in front of the mirror. He thinks this is a great game to watch himself (he'll even play peekaboo with himself) while brushing his teeth. He insists that I brush my teeth with him (not a problem!) and whenever I have the water running to spit or rinse or whatever he likes to dip his toothbrush under the flow. Lately the hardest thing has been getting him to give up the toothbrush when he's done!!

I know how frustrating it can be, but I think you need to 'give up' for a few days and just get her relaxed before starting in again.

Good luck!!

Samantha - posted on 01/10/2011

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My son started doing that as well...It was like world war 3. The best thing so far is we make him jealous and want the attention. As silly as it sounds we either brush the dogs teeth or my husband brushes my teeth and we make it seem like it is fun he is missing out on...he then will demand we brush his teeth. So far it works nicely...plus it gives me and my dog extra clean teeth lol ;) hopefully it is a phase...also we got his favorite character on a brush and that seems to help too and make silly sounds makes it funny for him (like Laura suggested as well).

Jodi - posted on 01/10/2011

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My thought is that your trying to hard! At this age it has to be fun! What about trying to give her her toothbrush outside of the bathroom. Walking around with it sing a toothbrush song, and not be soo concerned about getting her teeth cleaned at this point.
If you can get her back into the bathroom at the sink, just let her do her thing for a bit, chew/brush the toothbrush, dip it in the running water! Bring the fun back and then do really quick little brushes when you can! Just my thoughts!
Good Luck!!

Ricky - posted on 01/06/2011

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I would take her to a dentist to see about toothpaste, but until then you can use a training toothpaste (with no floride). I live in a big city so we have nothing in our water so my sons dentist told me I should be using floride for my sons teeth and that it is ok for him to swallow small amounts.

When it comes to actually brushing his teeth we have 2 brushes. One for me to brush his teeth with and one for him to play with. The same goes for toothpaste, one with floride and one with out (for him to suck on).
I tell my son that Mommy needs to brush his teeth first then its his turn. I brush his teeth as he sits on the counter next to the sink (where he can play with the water which he loves) and when Im done I give him his brush and paste and I brush my own teeth to show him mommy brushes her teeth as well.

If you need to you can wrap her in a towel and lay her on your lap (as you sit on the toilet or floor) and insert a finger in the side of her mouth to keep it open.

If you already havent, take her to a dentist (pediatric if you can). They can give you tips and other suggestions.

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Heather - posted on 01/18/2011

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My son brushes his own teeth, 20 months old. And uses a flouride free toothpaste. Infact every time he goes in the bathroom he thinks its time to brush his teeth!

Melissa - posted on 01/17/2011

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One time I got so frustrated I had to leave the scene! I let my husband finished the job. He was so patient with our daughter and was being goofy. Of course she didn't get her teeth brushed well that day or any the next week. He said I should give her a break to forget how frustrated I had gotten. Indeed, I layed off of getting it done "perfectly" and just let her LIKE the toothbrush again. Now, I'm happy to report she has forgiven me and we now let Mommy brush first and then she can finish. Then we use a sink faucet adapter that turns the water stream into a drinking fountain. She loves drinking the water this way! We have yet to learn the spit part so we are still using fruity flavored flouride-free gel.

Nevada - posted on 01/16/2011

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Arwen brushes her own teeth. She's at the "monkey see, monkey do" stage, so we brush our teeth together. Initially, she didn't use paste, but now I put a tiny bit of kiddies toothpaste (which tastes like bubblegum) on her brush. I'm trying to teach her to spit out the paste at the moment. I get her to brush her teeth when she's in the bath - it helps distract her when I wash her hair!

Amanda - posted on 01/16/2011

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I agree with Jodi, sometimes if a parent gets frustrated and is trying too hard, our babies push back just as hard. My daughter always has several brushes to carry around and play with/suck on and I just clean them throughout the day or trade for a clean one when one hits the floor. Also, check with your pediatrician or a dentist, I've been told it is ok to use a regular toothpaste as a "wash". Put just enough on the bristles to flavor/color them for brushing. It's not enough flouride to worry about flouridosis but will get the brushing done.



This was told to me by my dentist when my son was little. He HATED, I repeat HATED, the fruity and bubble gum flavor kids paste. I've only been able to use the "cool mint with star breathstrips" toothpaste made by colgate (that is only carried at walgreens in my area), and childrens sensodyne will work if necessary. All others are too minty *eye roll* lol He also didn't get really good at spitting until recently...and he just turned 6.

Nicola - posted on 01/15/2011

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my little girl has always brushed her own teeth too but recently she has started to put up a bit of a fight with it so what i have started to do now is brush my teeth at the same time as her so she can see that it isnt going to hurt her or even let her brush my teeth which normally makes her want to do her own as she has seen mummy doing it :) hope this has helped you and good luck!!

Stefanie - posted on 01/13/2011

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I use the training toothpaste that is okay to swallow etc. We also got a toddler soft spin brush. It took me some time to find one that actually was for a BOY but you should have no problem! Princess stuff and Dora galore! We brush as a family each night and then I do with my son in the morning since my husband has already gone to work. He loves it! Hope this helps!

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Take her to the store and let her pick out her cool new tooth brush and maybe a fun cup to rinse with. Chill out take a breath and let her watch you and your husband brush your teeth. Make goofy faces. I got my daughter a mirror she can hold so can see how "shiny her chompers are". : )

Jennifer - posted on 01/11/2011

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If you use the kids toothpaste, she doesn't have to spit. Get the fruity flavor stuff and she'll love it.

Jennifer - posted on 01/11/2011

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Use the floride free kids toothpaste. Tom's of Maine is significantly cheaper by ounce than the bigger brands. I started when he cut his first tooth at 5 months and we brush at night and in the morning but I approach it as part of our day. Never ask if she wants to, etc. Let her pick out a toothbrush with her favourite character. I also have been telling my son that Elmo (on his brush) LOVES when he brushes his teeth!!! So did Thomas when we used the oral b with his picture on it. He would get so excited about that. I always ask who is on the brush and then tell him in a realy excited voice how much Elmo loves when he brushes his teeth. He loves it. He only protests when he is about to cut a tooth and I push on through. I get the main stuff then let him chew on it. If he asks for more paste, I give him a little but I only use a teeny tiny bit at a time anyway. Brush your teeth while she chews on the brush after you finish doing the big parts.

Brandy - posted on 01/11/2011

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We've used the training paste and it's awesome. We do it as part of the routine in the morning and the evening. He turns the bathroom light on, we talk about putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush, getting it a little wet, and recently we have added a song. "This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth, this is the way we brush our teeth so early in the morning/before we go to bed" (Mulberry bush tune), then we substitute rinsing for brushing and I simply run the brush around his teeth without toothpaste. He often holds onto the brush with me, and I've recently started letting go of it for a few seconds to see what he does as I still want to make sure he's getting all his teeth/gums brushed. Then he turns out the light. We've brushed his teeth/gums since before he had teeth, but only in the past 6-8 months have we done it as a routine. The training paste is great as it's safe if swallowed and you don't have to worry about spitting it out. The added taste of it may help your daughter be more inclined to do it. Don't give up - she'll get there!

Sasha - posted on 01/10/2011

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My kiddo has been brushing his teeth on his own since he got his first tooth (13 months). I get him the floride free training tooth paste. He brushes his teeth with mommy. Try getting her a cool tooth brush with her favorite cartoon or something. and really the trainin paste is great.

Sandie - posted on 01/10/2011

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i use a childrens toothpaste which is fine to swallow, i just make sure to use a pea size squeeze. at the beginning i did the same as you, pin him down a make him let me do it but it was so traumatic that i gave up and let him do it himself, which was sort of ok, now that he can copy noises and point to body parts, my hubby and i get him so say "eeeee" and i can get to his front teeth (he even does it when he sees a toothbrush now, and gets excited about brush time!) and we say "wheres your tongue" he opens his mouth wide and sticks his tongue out and i can get to the back teeth and give his lil tongue a quick brush (just for fun for him lol) sometimes he wont let me do it and doesnt want to do anything, so i either let him hold it and sort of guide it around with him or let him watch a bit of tv or play then try again a bit later. good luck, hope this helps!

Laura - posted on 01/09/2011

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funny sounds (zoom,zoom), make up a song & take it in turns x it usually takes me about 15 mins to clean my daughters teeth but it doesn't end up in her screaming like it used to. I show her what im going to do then i do it to her she laughs and thinks its funny x Just dont go too hard, If she is still teething (which she will be) her gums will be sore. Hope this helps.

Mia - posted on 01/05/2011

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As far as toothpaste goes, we got the okay from our pediatrician to use this;



http://usa.weleda.com/our-products/shop/...



Toddler toothpaste from Weleda. Our doctor says it's also perfectly fine if swallowed.



As far as making it fun, I cannot wait to hear some ideas. I am totally failing in this regard. For some reason, it's only fun if daddy is around.

Rebekah - posted on 01/05/2011

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I agree with the others. My daughter brushes her own teeth. I put a no fluoride (training) toothpaste on her brush and hand it to her. On occasions I can convince her to let me help, but for the most part she does it herself. Our dentist said at this age not to make a big deal about it too. She absolutely LOVES to brush her teeth so I give her the opportunity to brush/chew about 3 times a day (only use toothpaste at night before bed). Recently she's started spitting on her own b/c she watches her older brother brush and spit. So, continue brushing when she brushes and she'll probably figure out how to spit on her own.

Caroline - posted on 01/05/2011

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My little boy kind of brushes his teeth, i use a low floride paste advised to me by my health visitor, she says it doesn't matter if he swallows as its mild enough for his stomach to cope with and the most important part is that he is getting healthy teeth and the spitting will come with time from watching me and his daddy.

Lela - posted on 01/05/2011

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My son brushes his own teeth. I give him his toothbrush when I'm brushing my teeth. He sees me brushing and he wants to. He does a chew/brush but my friend who is a dentist said just getting them use to brushing is the main idea until age 2.
So try letting her do it and you brush your teeth at the same time. Must kids want to do what their parents are doing.

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