Toddler Won’t Brush Teeth: What to Do to Take the Stress Out of Toothbrushing 

By Lynn •  Updated: 10/26/23 •  7 min read
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Toddler won’t brush teeth? We’ve got you. In this article, we’ll explore several ways you can get your toddler to scrub those pearly whites with little to no fuss–we hope. Join us as we share our top tips for keeping your little one’s teeth in tip-top shape. 

Brushing a Toddler’s Teeth

As you might imagine, brushing your toddler’s teeth is very important. Though your little one can likely hold a toothbrush and maneuver the toothbrush in their mouth, the truth is that brushing done solely by the toddler is not going to be enough to remove plaque. In fact, it isn’t usually until a child is around 8-10 years old that he or she can effectively clean their own teeth. 

So, what does all of this mean? It means that, despite any fuss, you absolutely must brush your child’s teeth. How do you do that? We’re glad you asked…

Toddler Hates Brushing Teeth

Is It Normal For Toddlers to Hate Brushing Teeth?

Yes, it can be normal, but not all toddlers are resistant to having their teeth brushed. 

Still, brushing a toddler’s teeth can be a tricky process. Sometimes, toddlers get dead set on what they want (and don’t want) to do. So the act of brushing teeth can quickly turn into a power struggle.

Other times, a toddler may view brushing teeth as normal and fun, and may never balk at the idea. 

No matter which category your toddler falls into, there are ways to make the toothbrushing process easier for everyone involved. With a little planning, preparation, and grit on your end, you may find brushing your toddler’s teeth becomes easier over time. 

smiling boy

How to Get Toddler to Brush Teeth: Top 5 Tips

So, how can you get your toddler to brush their teeth? Consider our following top 5 tips:

  • Start Early – Prevention is key when it comes to toddler meltdowns, and brushing teeth is no different. The AAPD recommends that you start wiping your baby’s gums with a piece of gauze from birth and that you start brushing your baby’s teeth whenever his or her first tooth erupts. If you follow this trend, it is likely that your child will grow used to having his or her teeth cleaned and won’t flip out every time you come near them with a toothbrush. There are even baby toothbrush teething toys aimed at getting your baby used to having their teeth brushed in a fun, safe, and engaging way.
  • Use the Right Toothpaste – Next, we recommend you use a toothpaste that is not only age-appropriate (fluoride toothpaste isn’t recommended until your toddler is three or older) but also a toothpaste that tastes good! We recommend Hello Watermelon Fluoride Free Toothpaste. It not only tastes great, but is free of dyes, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors.
  • And the Right Toothbrush – The right toothbrush can work wonders for getting your child in the mood to brush his or her teeth! Have several toothbrushes in your stash. One for you to use on your child’s teeth. One for your child to brush his or her teeth with. And one for your child to use on his or her toys. Pick the colors and characters you know your toddler will enjoy most, or, allow them to pick out their own. Score! 
  • Use Mimicking Behaviors to Your Advantage – We all know how much our toddlers love mimicking us… put those imitations to good use! Set up a time for you and your child to brush your teeth together side-by-side! It may make the process more enticing than you forcing them to do it. 
  • Promote Toothbrushing Through Things They Love – Allow your kiddo to brush their dolly’s teeth, their robot’s teeth, their stuffed animal’s teeth, and even your teeth! Also, even when it isn’t tooth brushing time, you may wish to pop on a fun and entertaining toothbrushing song or video just to get your child in the mood! 

What to Do If My Toddler Won’t Brush Teeth?

What To Do If Toddler Refuses to Brush Teeth?

If your toddler flat out refuses to brush his or her own teeth even after you’ve implemented the tips above, it may be time to take matters into your own hands.

Instead of trying to coerce your child to brush his or her teeth, simply brush his or her teeth daily yourself.

Note: You should be brushing your child’s teeth daily anyway. H, however, we are simply advising that you continue to do so, even if your child “refuses” to take part in it. 

What If Toddler Won’t Let You Brush Teeth?

Don’t take no for an answer.

By neglecting to clean your toddler’s teeth, you may be setting them up for plaque buildup, cavities, and tooth decay.

To brush your child’s teeth properly, sit on the floor. Sit your child in front of you but facing away from you. 

Gently lean your child back so that his or her head rests in your lap. Brush his or her teeth and ignore any kicking, screaming, and tantrum-ing. Do not react to tantrums and do not skip toothbrushing. Your child will eventually learn to accept toothbrushing as you are consistent. 

Also, consider using a Tom’s toothbrush when brushing your toddler’s teeth yourself. The neck on these toothbrushes are skinnier and better equipped for maneuvering in tiny mouths. 

Tom's of Maine Kids BPA-Free Toothbrush, Soft, 6-Pack
Buy on Amazon

How Do I Motivate My Child to Brush His Teeth?

How Do I Get My 2 Year Old to Brush His Teeth?

Use the methods described above to get your child excited and happy to brush his or her teeth. You may also consider doing a sticker chart or giving small prizes after a certain amount of days that your child has consistently allowed you to brush their teeth. 

What Do You Do When Your 3 Year Old Won’t Brush Their Teeth?

Use your 3-year-olds sense of independence, autonomy, and growing sense of responsibility to allow him or her to brush their teeth on their own FIRST. Then, go in and brush afterward.

This can make a big difference when the child knows he or she gets to brush their teeth before you do.

Brushing a Toddler’s Teeth Is Possible!

Remember that keeping your toddler’s oral health in check is of the utmost importance. We hope this has provided enough tips and tricks to help you keep your child’s pearly whites in top shape until their next dental visit!

Happy brushing!

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Lynn is a freelance writer, a wife, and a mother of two beautiful kids. Lynn started Infant Empire with the aim of making parenting easier for fellow mums and dads. She believes the parenting tips provided here will be of great help to all parents.

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