How can I get my 22 month old daughter to brush her teeth properly?

Donna - posted on 09/06/2010 ( 46 moms have responded )

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She wont let me do it as she likes to do it herself but she just sucks the tooth paste off and is not actually brushing! any suggestions?

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Johanna - posted on 09/17/2010

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I work in a pediatric dental office and see mostly the toddlers I can give some suggestions and ways we do it at the office to maybe help you. When a toddler comes in we do what is called a lap to lap (or knee to knee). The child will face the parent with their legs straddling the waist, the hygenist faces the parent and you'll create a bridge with you legs. The childs head will rest in the hygenist's lap and the parent will hold their hands so they don't grab at the tooth brush. That way the hygensits has more control over the child. This is a control issue for your daughter and right now you are letting her be the one in total control. It's not going to hurt her if you take back that control and brush her teeth for her. Right now the most important thing is that her teeth get brushed. If she doesn't already her gums may develop gingivitis and cavities may be forming. Once she starts complying with you then you can let her brush after you are done as a reward. You are not a bad parent for making your child do what is right in terms of their health. She will cry, fuss, throw a tantrum. You can not let that affect you. I can tell you that the times where the parent caves into the demands of the child are the only times that we can not do our job properly. If you haven't already take her to a pediatric dentist. The dentist and the staff are trained to work with children. I know some of the things I said are harsh and maybe I will be vilified by some of you out there but I see it everyday where the child comes in and they have numerous cavitied because the teeth are not cleaned properly. And the parent tells me that they won't let them and that they cry and they don't want to hurt their feelings. You are the parent and you are in control. The child is the child and needs to listen even if it's not what they want to do.

Angela - posted on 09/17/2010

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Just hang in there I think thats pretty normal :) Just brush what you can and keep letting her do it herself as well. I like to sing the ABC song when brushing. It keeps them interested and forms a routine that they are used to. Any kind of song will work. Also, you can show her how you brush since they love to imitate us! Eventually shell get it. Good luck!

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Hi! My son would do this all the time (want to pull your hair out, lol) I got him a singing toothbrush that not only sings his fav song, but talks and encourages him too! Tells im he's doing a good job, keep brushing and so on. Let her watch herself in the mirror, she can see what she's doing and it would make it a whole lot easier to get those back teeth. As for the toothpast..cut back on how much your giving her.Let her know that it works in her teeth to help her and if shes sucking it off, the little majic crystals can't get the ucky germs off. If she likes princesses,use that to your advantage...the toothpaste is the prince that needs to save her teeth (the princess) from dangerous germs! LOL. Have fun with little stories! Best of luck, and don't give up. Creative little tricks can help!

April - posted on 09/10/2010

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We brush his teeth while he takes his bath. He loves to play in the bath so after I wash him I set the timer for 10 minutes (or less if it's late). Then I tell him I set the timer for X minutes and that after I brush his teeth he can play. If he complains I remind him that he doesn't get to play until I've brushed his teeth properly so it's up to him whether he gets play time or not. This usually works, but on really difficult nights I call in Daddy. Right now my Little Man is in Mommy-mode so the threat of having Daddy do it is enough to make him open up for me.

We also remind him that he has to do the "Have to-dos" before he can do the "Want to-dos".

Heather - posted on 09/09/2010

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Most 2, 3, and even 4 year olds aren't going to brush their teeth on their own. We have to show them how, again, and again, and again. I made it a game with my almost 3 year old son. I count to 3 and brush one side, then count to 3 again and quickly brush the other side of his mouth and I do this until I get everything brushed. I have to get him to laugh though to be able to get him to move his upper lip so that I can brush the front of his upper teeth. He is really weird about having them brushed for some reason. Have fun brushing her teeth for now. After you are done, put a little tiny bit of toothpaste on her toothbrush and ask her to brush her teeth like mommy just did. That way she gets to practice too! Sooner or later you will see that she's ready to try it on her own. But if you want it done right, so she doesn't get any cavities, then you might want to do it for her, for now. We also have a few toothbrushes, and I let my son pick one and hold it while I do his teeth, and then he uses that toothbrush that he was holding to practice doing his own teeth, or sucking off the toothpaste!

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Jenny - posted on 10/06/2010

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I too have the same problem with my daughter who is 22 months old. I recently baught her a spin brush and she thinks it's neat and I think the spin brush action is getting her teeth cleaner then a regular tooth brush. Might help to at least get her teeth cleaner.

Lani - posted on 09/28/2010

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buy a totally new tooth brush (different colour, different brand if necessary, etc). tell her that this tooth brush is just for Mummy and Daddy (and whoever else), but not for your daughter to use. Or do what most other people are doing and take turns. You do it first, and your daughter doesn't get to have her turn until you've done it properly.

Brooke - posted on 09/21/2010

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I still have issues with this, my daughter is three and its usually a battle to get her to brush her teeth at night, its usually not a problem in the morning. I took her to Target and let her pick out her toothbrush and toothpaste and that seemed to make her more interested in brushing her teeth. Sometimes I will brush with her and it will become a game, "Who can brush the longest!" Usually I just brush for a minute maybe more but she is always so proud when she wins! She also uses the Anticavity mouthwash that turns your teeth blue and thats where the plaque is and so you have to brush it away, she loves that. She brushes her teeth herself and if I see her just sucking on the brush I will tell her to brush or I'm going to do it and usually she does it.

Halie - posted on 09/20/2010

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what I do is i tell my daughter that she has sugar bugs and we have to get all of them gone and and we listen and see if there is any left and if there is she will finish brushing her own teeth.still sometimes she will suck the toothpaste off but so much anymore and i've tried all the ways that Karen tatum uses and they work for me. i just make it fun for them to brush their teeth

Amber - posted on 09/19/2010

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I let my son brush in the bath then I tell him if he doesn't let Momma brush too then bath time will be over... taking something fun away "normally" works. He is now 33 months and this has been working since about 18 months. Also I get him to lay on the bed and open wide for a quick brushing and flossing. My dentist put me onto that trick. It is a game to him. It is all in the approach. Also just in case you are unaware... everyone keeps mentioning toothpaste... your little one is under two, she is just going to eat the toothpaste and you can not expect her to brush her teeth as you or I would. That is what we as mothers are for, but my point is about toothpaste, please be aware that since all she is going to do is eat it; make sure you either don't use any at all... or you buy toothpaste without fluoride. Good Luck to you!

Lulu - posted on 09/17/2010

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I bought a tablet from the dentist or you can find it in a pharmacy that colour the 'dirt' on their theeth, and I told my kids to brush that off, To them it was like a game and couldn't wait for the next 'sweetie' My sister in law says that 'sweet O' also works.

Marisa - posted on 09/17/2010

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I brush my teeth while he is chewing on the brush..but then I tell him help mommy brush your teeth and he lets me finish what he started. good luck! I have tried lots of toothbrushes..he likes the ones that light up..which I got at Walmart ..good luck!

[deleted account]

I would let her brush her teeth first and then you do it too. My kids ended up with cavities really young (ages 4 and 5) and I actually was brushing them too so definitely don't let it go!

Stacey - posted on 09/17/2010

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She willeventually do it herself. That is how they learn. Start by brushing your teeth with her and she will copy you. Mine does the same.

Jennifer - posted on 09/17/2010

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it's all in the role modeling, and making it fun, not stressful... Keep calm... My youngest has been through the same phase, and now he leads the way initiating tooth brushing... 'brush your teeth, brush your teeth' is what i hear from the other end of the house... By the time we all get there he has the boxes for his brother and sister to stand on and he's waiting and pointing to the brushes... We've made it a family affair too, all 5 of us are in the en suite, using one mirror and one vanity... He will start the brushing technique by sucking off the paste, then after a second dollop on the brush, he gets the side to side motion and i will finish by brushing the back teeth for him... I've built the trust with him over the last year and got through the terrible 2's, and the 'i do it' phase.... I'm just loving how far patience has got us... He has just turned 3... good luck...

Amanda - posted on 09/17/2010

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This is a hint from a family member, we say hippos which is teeth closed to clean the front teeth and then tigers with mouth open wide to do the rest. This works mostly, also taking turns.

Melissa - posted on 09/16/2010

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i turned it into a game, i take my tooth brush (no paste on it) and i would tell him "WATCH MOMMY" and i would brush mine, when he did his wrong i would say "no watch mommy" then i would move his hand with the brush in the right direction, he eventually found it fun and now brushes his teeth

Darby - posted on 09/16/2010

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One thing I do with my children is I allow them to brush their teeth and then it's Mommy's turn to brush their teeth.

Deborah - posted on 09/15/2010

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What i've found to work is the firefly brand of toothbrushes. I bought one that has a light timer(the toothbrush lights up for a minute) and that was encouraging my daughter to struggle less as she liked to make it light up. The deal being I'll brush her teeth without any fuss and she gets to make it light up for a few minutes..

Becky - posted on 09/15/2010

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My son is almost 4 and he constantly fusses about having to brush his teeth. Once he gets going, he's usually fine, but man, getting there isn't always fun! He has several toothbrushes, including an electric Spider-Man, and 3 different toothpastes, including one prescribed from the dentist. I didn't take him to the dentist until he was 3.5 years old and boy, do I regret it! He had to have one of those metal caps put on one tooth after it was drilled, then he had 3 smaller fillings. The dentist called the cavities "bugs," so I try to talk to him about the cavity bugs and making sure that we brush them away. One thing I've found is that he does better when I rub the toothpaste into the toothbrush, rather than leave a dollop on there. Otherwise, the first time he spits, he spits the toothpaste right out into the sink, which does him no good there. Anyway, most of know where you're coming from, so I wish you the best of luck!

Angela - posted on 09/14/2010

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we brush our teeth together i let her have a turn brushing mommy's teeth but i get to help do hers too, this as work well for us

Sandra - posted on 09/14/2010

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Katrina- I think that a lot of "older" dentists say that because they don't want to deal with little kids. That is what they were taught when they went to dental school and don't want to change with the times. That's my opinion anyway, from the 10 years I have been in dentistry. When I was an Oral Surgery Asst. we had lots of contact with almost all the dentists in our county, plus some in a couple other counties, Probably around 150 busy dental offices; and it really seemed to be the "old school" thinking...

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It surprises me that a dentist would say it's unnecessary to think about these things until they reach 3-4 yrs old. Everyone I know in the dental field says the complete opposite (including my mom, a retired hygenist, my daughter's dentist, my dentist and a neighbor who is also a dentist). My understanding is that not only do you help set good habits by brushing early but as baby teeth are the foundation for permanent teeth, you want them to be as healthy and cavity-free as possible.

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My dad's a dentist and he said you really don't need to be even thinking about this until after they are 3 to 4 years old, which makes a huge difference as well in getting them to comply with brushing.

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we started our children out when they were about 4-6 mos. old. We would brush their gums every morning and night to start getting them used to brushing their teeth. They have always loved brushing their teeth and do so several times a day. ;) Not sure how to help but maybe this would help you if you have another child later down the road.

good luck and god bless

Kelley - posted on 09/14/2010

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I lay my daughter on the counter in the bathroom and we count her teeth every night. thaat puts her at ease for me to be able to brush them as well. when i am all done she will sit up and i let her brush them as well.kids just dont have to skill down yes to know what they are actually supposed to be doing, they can't brush themselves and do it right.

Stephanie - posted on 09/13/2010

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when i taught my oldest to brush his teeth we did monkey see monkey do i brushed my teeth while he brushed his i got down to his level and i would start and then he would do every thing exactly like i did i love the monkey see monkey do method works like a charm

Sandra - posted on 09/13/2010

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You can try lots of different approaches. For my oldest daughter I could turn it into a game and she would let her baby, etc... brush her teeth (I would hold it). With my son it was mostly just a big fight until he was almost 3. With my youngest daughter, I only had to fight with her when she was about your daughter's age for a month or so. (she is 2 1/2 now). If necessary, wrap her up in her towel after bath at bedtime and brush. That is what I did when she was about 18 months. When she got closer to your daughter's age and time-outs were working well, I would give her a time-out if she didn't let me have a turn. She can brush her teeth herself in the morning, have a turn at bedtime, but you need to have a turn at bedtime (once a day) until she is 6 or 7 years old. Children do not have the fine motor skills to brush their teeth well until then. I promise that you will not cause her years of counseling for traumatizing her by brushing her teeth :) It's just one of those things that is not a choice, like riding in the car seat etc... My kids are 14, 11, and 2 1/2 and none of them has ever had a cavity, because I always brushed their teeth. I am a pediatric dental assistant and used to be an oral surgery asst. This is the advice that we give our patients.

Also, if she's swallowing all the toothpaste, make sure you are using training toothpaste (fluoride free) until she stops swallowing it and can spit it out.

Taylor - posted on 09/13/2010

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Here are some ideas that worked for us...
1. get her 2 toothbrushes and toothpastes so she can chose which. Get an electric toothbrush. Let her pick her brush out at the store.
2. Speak in a british, german, or russian accent as you do it.
3. find "things" in her teeth. We found different color tractors. You can find people you know, animals, Dora, whatever will make her happy. Be creative and surprise her.
4. Can't remember when I started letting my son chew gum, but it helps. Get the stuff wit xylatol (sp?) because it actually helps their teeth. (my dentist said so!)
5. She may enjoy chewing on a wet wash-cloth. It isn't brushing, but it helps get some of the stuff off. Also, ending the meal with a carrot can help because it sort of scrubs the gunk off as well. (Like a dog biscuit does.)
6. Give her a toothbrush (clean w/no paste) to just chew on while you read to her. It will ruin the brush sooner, but at least it will be in there and she wont feel attacked by you :)

Alicia - posted on 09/12/2010

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I got my son into it by letting him watch me do it. Every morning I say, "Mommy has to go brush her teethers, would you like to come?" They're at the age where they like to copy the things that you do, so seeing you brushing your teeth will give her some incentive to do it as well.

[deleted account]

In our house, the rule is that our daughter gets to brush her teeth after I do it or in the case of my husband, he lets her brush first and then he finishes up. If she won't let my husband finish the job, the next time she doesn't get to brush her own teeth at all and he'll remind her if she forgets.



On the rare occasion she won't let us brush her teeth, we sit down and tell her that until her teeth are brushed, we won't be leaving the house, playing games, or whatever exciting thing was planned for the day. Sometimes she pouts but she knows we mean it so she gives in.



My mom always sings a tooth brush song when she brushes our daughter's teeth and that's part of their ritual when grandma is visiting.



One thing I've found is to make it part of the morning / evening routine. Like reading a book at night or putting on underwear in the morning. I started brushing her teeth long before she had any and it's always been part of what we do; if we do it out of order, sometimes she gets upset. As she's gotten older and wants to do things herself, we've let her add things in stages (lately it's been putting the toothpaste on the brush). She also has more than a few toothbrushes and at least 2 different types of toothpaste plus, we let her use ours. This gives her another element of control because every time we brush her teeth, she picks the toothbrush and which toothpaste we use. It also gives me another bargaining tool when she decides she wants to brush her teeth first; I tell her that if she brushes first, I get to pick the toothbrush & paste and she usually gives into me brushing first.



Brush your teeth in front of her. I know one of the reasons my daughter loves to brush is because she sees my husband and I do it. After she expressed an interest in doing it herself, we'd sit on the floor, at her level, so she could watch how we do it. Sometimes I'll say things like, "See how Mama brushes the front like this...." and while I still don't trust her to brush her teeth completely on her own, she's stopped chewing on the brush and now makes a go at brushing her teeth really well.



We've also talked a lot about cavities and why it's important to brush well. One of her friends had a cavity by his 2nd birthday and we've talked about that and what it means. She knows she doesn't want any and sometimes that means getting help from her parents when it's time to brush.



p.s. Make sure you're replacing her toothbrushes as they get worn; they will wear faster if she's chewing/sucking on them

Alyssa - posted on 09/11/2010

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my son is the same way. he's 26months. we have given him our old toothbrushes when we had to get new ones and he likes playing with them if theres no toothpaste on it, he'll move the toothbrush around in there like hes brushing. if i let him brush my teeth, he usually lets me do his afterward. i think thats what works best for us. he says "teet" and sticks my toothbrush in my mouth lol but i dont mind if hes getting his clean too.

Tarryn - posted on 09/11/2010

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Try by telling her that you are going to 'tickle' her teeth first because you want to hear them laugh! Then once you've brushed them tell her to 'tickle' them and ask her if she heard them laugh.

Kayla - posted on 09/10/2010

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i agree with danielle, the best thing tha ever happend in our house was teh spin brush. it was a huge fight and his teeth were turning a yellow colour. then i got a diego spin brush - and now he asks me when its time to brush his teeth. i do it first and then he will copy. worked perfectly for us and his teeth are way cleaner

Angelica - posted on 09/10/2010

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My daughter used to do that, so we came up with a silly song for her, stand by her side, and brushed our teeth with her, she would watch us and copied us, so we would take more time brushing our teeth( each sides of our teeth, tongue and all) she had a blast, she tought hmm, I like how mommy and daddy clean their teeth, so she just followed. have you tried that yet? hopefully it works

Danielle - posted on 09/09/2010

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I had the same problem with my son and you what worked great? a spinbrush! I think Colgate makes it. They have different characters and you press a button and the head of the toothbrush spins on it's own. So even if she just puts the brush in her mouth to suck the toothpaste the bristles will still clean her teeth. he loves it! worked like a champ! hope this helps!!!

Sarah - posted on 09/08/2010

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We take turns in our house. Mommy or Daddy get to help brush and then our kids get to brush for a bit. My kids are 2 and 3 (nearly 4) and still need help as they too would rather eat the toddler paste.

They also went to the dentist for the first time and were shown on a set of big teeth the proper way to brush - I think it helped a little.

Our daughter (2-year-old) is very big into saying "no, do self" and we just have to say no it's Mommy's turn or Daddy's turn.

Good luck:)

[deleted account]

I bought 2 toothbrushes - one for me and one for my son. He can have a turn brushing but only if I get a turn too. That seemed to solve the problem at my house. Good luck.

Lisa - posted on 09/07/2010

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Ditto!! I have given up thinking I will be able to get his teeth as clean as I get mine. I try to make a game of it and let my son brush my teeth while I try to brush his and make ah noises. I have to be really quick when it works. Its tedious and can take a lot of patience and mollycoddling to get him to play the game!!!

Dawn - posted on 09/07/2010

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Take turns and sing a song is what we do. He lets me get the top, and likes it...but the bottom, he fights by putting his tongue in the way...I just try and do as good a job as I can (I think he is cutting molars again!). I got a book from a series called Rookie Toddler called "Brush, Brush, Brush" and he loves it...you can turn the story into a song! My son also needs to hold and chew my toothbrush with his (I have to rinse it under hot water alot!!!) I actually have the opposite problem though...my son wants to brush all day now!! He will just go tot he bathroom door all day long..."Bruuss, Bruuss" :) :) And, don't stress about her doing it correctly, this will take a while for her to do by herself (up to age 4 as far as I have read).

[deleted account]

Encourage the Mommy has to have her turn brushing first and then she can have her turn. Alternatively let her have a turn without toothpaste first and then your turn with toothpaste.
We have also had success with singing a song (Raffi's Brush your teeth or ABCs).
And when things were really bad myself or my husband would brush their teeth at the same time to get our son to copy us so we could get the toothbrush into his mouth.
Most days all goes well and some days... well it's a challenge.

Good luck!

Melinda - posted on 09/06/2010

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My daughter is 22 months as well, and we have struggled too. I give her the toothbrush after wetting it down a bit first, and she sucks on it a bit while I comb her hair. The we put the toothpaste on. She has learned that it is Mommy's turn first. She doesn't really like that, and I have to hold her hands with one hand and brush with the other (while looking at the mirror - it is easier this way). She does fight me a bit, but truthfully, her mouth is open as she whines a bit, so it makes it easier. Then when I finish, I let her have her turn, and she plays with the brush for a minute before we rinse. She enjoys washing her hands and mouth afterwards, so we end on a happy note. This probably isn't the most ideal way to do it, but her teeth get clean and that is what is important. She has progressively fought me less and less, so it is improving. Good luck!!

Karen - posted on 09/06/2010

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I had the hardest time brushing my daughters teeth until I did two things: 1) We pretend there's animals hiding in her teeth and we have to "brush, brush, brush" to get them out. That seems to help. 2) She came with my to the dentist and sat on my lap while I had my teeth cleaned. Now we play "the dentist game" every night. she lays down in the dentist chair (daddy's lap) and the dentist (me) comes to brush her teeth. We talk about how wide mama's mouth was when she was at the dentist. How the dentist made bubbles on mama's teeth etc. And, I also talk to her about why we have to do it and how come it has to happen all the time.
Hope that helps!
Oh yeah - and how about taking turns? Let her start and then you have a turn. Back and forth until the job actually gets done.

Erin - posted on 09/06/2010

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My son sticks his tongue in front of his teeth and bites the tooth brush. It makes it very difficult for me to brush them. I try singing a song while we do it that doesn't help me much but maybe it will help you.

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