How to Get Child to Brush Properly?

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You told your child to brush his teeth. Suddenly, he runs away and tells you he doesn’t want to brush his teeth. Have you experienced this? Well, you’re not alone. Most parents get a war against their children when it comes to brushing their teeth.

Here’s the gist: You cannot let your child avoid brushing his teeth. We all know the consequences of having poor dental hygiene. So, as your child grows, you need to get our child to learn and enjoy brushing his teeth properly.

He doesn’t like to brush his teeth – Why?

When you hear your child making up excuses, running away from you, or even hiding when you call them to brush their teeth, we also ask ourselves–Why he doesn’t like to brush his teeth? There are a lot of reasons. It’s a good thing to know the reason behind for us to address the issue properly.

One reason is that they don’t like the taste of the toothpaste. The mixed taste of cooling but spicy mint makes them throw up. It comes with their taste preference, that they will most like favor the sweet taste like chocolates, candies or cakes. [1]

Also, the idea of something is touching their gums, and the bristles glide into their gums, tongue, or teeth–which is the toothbrush makes them feel weird. That’s why they don’t like brushing their teeth.

You can also ask your child specifically. If he doesn’t know what to say, give him options for him to answer your question. In that way, you can identify the reasons and solve the problem.

Brushing The Teeth In the Proper Way

After knowing why your child doesn’t like to brush his teeth, it’s time to plan. Here’s the deal: Get your child in front of the sink while holding the toothbrush willingly—no running away, shouting, or making excuses. We want to train them to brush their teeth regularly and develop good dental hygiene.

Introduce the objects to be used.

When things are new to them, there are two basic emotions that they might feel. One is excited, and the second one is scared. It’s actually normal if you think that your child is scared of the toothbrush. You need to introduce the toothpaste and the toothbrush in a playful way.

You can present these objects through play. You can do role-playing involving his toy friends while making up reasons why they should brush their teeth. Another story is you being a dentist, saying that your child should brush his teeth together with his friends. Incorporating these objects in play helps them know the function and remember that brushing their teeth is fun.

Flashcards will also be a big help. Let them familiarize objects through picture cards, books and real objects. Tell them the function of the object and useful the toothbrush and toothpaste. By doing so, you create a good image for them. The scary feeling will lessen.

Pick The Right Toothpaste

Kids highly favor the sweet more than the sour flavor. The taste of toothpaste can be unpleasant to them. The good news is that there are kinds of toothpaste that are specially made for kids. They come with different fruity flavors that will excite your child. If they continue to like the taste of your choice’s toothpaste, you can shift to a different flavor to try on from time to time. Exposing them to other flavors will prepare them for the toothpaste’s real taste in the following years.

Also, picking up the right toothpaste for your kid will depend on the age of your child. Fluoride toothpastes or the regular ones that the adults use are not suitable for kids until the age of three. You can also shift to a regular toothpaste when he already knows how to spit.

If you’re wondering why it is bad to swallow the fluoride toothpaste, it is because too much fluoride can cause discoloration of teeth or stomach upset to your child. For children ages two to five years old, kid-safe toothpastes are needed. These toothpastes are made with small amounts of fluorides, so it’s safe to swallow.

Here are some toothpastes that you can check and buy from Amazon.com:

  1. Colgate Kids Toothpaste with Anticavity Fluoride Featuring Minions, Mild Bubble Fruit Gel

This toothpaste is suitable for kids aged two and up. Your kids will surely like this because it has a mild bubble fruit flavor. If your kids like the taste of bubble gum, your child will be excited to brush with this. Lastly, you can show this toothpaste packaging because it features minions from the movie Despicable Me. You can use this as reinforcement.

  • Tom’s of Maine Natural Children’s Fluoride-Free Toothpaste, Silly Strawberry, 5.1 oz. 3-Pack
Sale
Tom's of Maine Natural Children's Fluoride-Free Toothpaste, Silly Strawberry
Made with natural ingredients, this toothpaste is safe to swallow, making the brushing activity easy

A fluoride-free toothpaste, this product will save your time and tears as you teach your child to brush his teeth. This toothpaste can be swallowed, and it has a strawberry flavor that makes brushing teeth fun. So you don’t need to worry if your child doesn’t spit out the toothpaste properly.

  • Crest Kid’s Cavity Protection Toothpaste (children and toddlers 2+), Sparkle Fun, 4.6 Oz (Pack of 3)
Sale
Crest Kid's Cavity Protection Toothpaste
This toothpaste aims to protect the teeth as it goes with fun texture

Made with colorful tidbits, this toothpaste will help you encourage your child to brush his teeth. It will help your child’s teeth to be stronger and it will prevent tooth decay.

Look For A Toothbrush

The next thing that you should consider is the toothbrush. The idea that something is going inside there, which is the toothbrush, makes them anxious, how much more if the bristles are hard. So, to make it easier, you can find a toothbrush with soft bristles in the market. Since the bristles are soft, they create a smooth glide or tickle the tongue of your child. It will be a lot easier, and it will lessen the anxiety that toothbrushes will hurt them.

Here are some toothbrushes that you can consider buying. You can find these in Amazon.com:

Oral-B Mickey and Minnie Mouse Kids Toothbrush, Children Ages 2-3+ Years Old, Extra Soft Bristles- Pack of 6

Oral-B Mickey and Minnie Mouse Kids Toothbrush, Children Ages 2-3+ Years Old, Extra Soft Bristles-...
  • Ideal for kids' small mouths
  • Helps clean hard-to-reach areas
  • Helps kids learn to brush

This toothbrush will help you a lot in teaching your child how to brush his teeth. For its size and bristles, your child can hold it easily, minimizing the dropping of the toothbrush. When your child easily grips the toothbrush, your child will be comfortable in brushing his teeth.

Some parents consider an electric toothbrush rather than the manual one. Electric toothbrushes are great in some ways, especially in cleaning the in-betweens of the teeth and gums deeply. However, please take note that you can use this kind of toothbrush at the age of three.

For this kind of toothbrush, you can consider this product. It’s on Amazon.com too!

Oral-B Kids Electric Toothbrush With Sensitive Brush Head and Timer, for Kids 3+

Sale
Oral-B Kids Electric Toothbrush With Sensitive Brush Head and Timer
An electric toothbrush that will help your kid brush his teeth faster and cleaner

This toothbrush is perfect for your child if you see your child brushing his teeth too slow or too fast. This product can easily remove dirt from your child’s teeth in a specific amount of time. You’ll save a lot of time and effort with this toothbrush.

Set an Example

As the saying goes “Like father, like son”–You want to set a good example in brushing our teeth. It sounds cliché, right? But the truth is, there is a great impact on what our child sees on us. Children learn through observation. As they observe your behavior or the things that you do, they will imitate those actions.[2]

When they see you brushing teeth regularly, it attracts their curiosity from the objects you used up to action that you’re doing. If they see you doing this a habit, mostly, they will follow you.

Let Them Brush on Their Own

If your child can hold the brush properly (without dropping it), let him brush his teeth alone. By doing so, you give them a sense of control over the activity. It will also help him enjoy the activity as well.

You might say that your child won’t totally clean his mouth. And yeah, that’s right. As you introduce brushing, you can start by the two of you holding the brush and gradually letting it go. You can also prompt him by saying the parts that he should clean like the tongue, upper teeth, lower teeth and more.

This activity aims to let them experience brushing, so you shouldn’t expect that they will totally clean their mouth. You could always check his mouth and redo the brushing.

There are interactive toothbrushes available in the market. This kind of toothbrush will help your child learn how to brush, and it will teach your child to brush his teeth independently. It has indicators if your child cleaned his mouth, and it will lessen your worry.

BriteBrush - GameBrush - The Interactive Smart Kids Toothbrush
An interactive toothbrush that will teach your child how to properly clean his teeth

Be A Friend, Not An Enemy

And yeah, you will always do the talking. You will explain why brushing is important and the negative effects of not brushing his teeth. Rather than telling them to brush their teeth or else they’ll have tooth decay, try telling the brighter side of brushing teeth.

Storytelling is a good idea to persuade them to brush their teeth. Involve the dentist or his pediatrician in the stories you’re telling. You can say the simple benefits like brushing your teeth will give you a good smile, or you can eat chocolates if you have healthy teeth.

Our goal is to show that we are on his side. Brushing his teeth is a good thing, not a punishment for him. When he grows with these positive reasons, toothbrushing will be a habit for him.

Tips On Teaching How To Brush Your Child’s Teeth

Brushing our teeth might sound easy, but for children, it’s not. It’s more than saying directions on how you brush your teeth. After knowing why they don’t like brushing their teeth and encouraging them, it’s time to teach them how.

Here are some useful tips that you can use as you teach your child how to brush:

Teach Him How To Prepare

Three items–toothbrush, toothpaste, and drinking cup. You can teach your child to prepare these items before brushing his teeth. Setting up a specific place to get and return the items will help him develop a sense of responsibility for a task. Also, this task will ready his mind for the main activity–brushing his teeth.

As for the toothpaste, you can show your child the amount of toothpaste to put on. You can say that it’s a size of a pea for his age.

You can try to put a toothbrush holder in the corner of your bathroom. This will help your child remember where he should get the items that he should prepare. There are tons of toothbrush holders on Amazon.com designed to reinforce the child as he gets the toothbrush and toothpaste.

Wall Mounted Duty Suction Cup Toothbrush Holder
Cute toothbrush holders that can reinforce him to prepare for the brushing activity

Familiarize the basic parts of the mouth

In your spare time, you can teach the basic parts of the mouth. It will help you instruct him while brushing. Teach him the gums, upper teeth, lower teeth, mouth and lips.

One way to familiarize the basic parts of the mouth is through the use of books. The board book entitled “Brush, brush, brush!” by Alicia Padron visualizes brushing as a fun activity. This includes illustrations and rhymes that you can read and show to your child so that he can remember them.

Brush, brush, brush!
A board book designed to encourage children to brush their teeth

Use Simple and Fun Instructions.

After teaching the basic parts of the mouth. It’s a lot easier now to instruct. Use simple and two – word commands like “tongue out”, “brush to the side” and many more. By doing so, you’ll minimize the talking and focus on the brushing.

Use a mirror

Let your child see how brushing works. Brushing his teeth with a mirror will help him visualize how brushing cleans his teeth. You can also try making funny faces while brushing for him to enjoy.

Here’s one of the bathroom mirrors that you can use while you and your kid is brushing his teeth:

Tangkula Bathroom Cabinet
Single door with mirror cabinet perfect for bathroom area

Brush With Him.

The next thing to do is to brush with him. Brushing your teeth together makes an enjoyable moment for you and your child. Also, it will be a lot easier for your child to observe how you thoroughly brush your teeth.

Set a timer or Stopwatch.

Setting up a timer will help you and your child manage the time. If you think your child brushes his teeth fast because he wanted to finish it sooner, set up a specific time for him to reach. On the other way, you can also do this tip if he’s slow in brushing.

The main point of setting up the time for your child is that brushing is not forever. It’s a quick cleaning activity for the teeth.

There are a lot of stopwatches available in the market. You can find them in different colors and you can actually let your child press them. Here’s one of the stopwatches that we can recommend:

Learning Resources Simple Stopwatch
Easy to use stopwatch for children to be used in different activities

Making the Teeth Healthy.

The growth of your child’s teeth will depend on how you take care of it. Of course, you want to see a big smile with a complete set of teeth. Tooth decay is one of the common problems that children experiences[3]. You don’t want to see your child feeling pain because of poor dental hygiene.

Brushing our teeth will be one of the biggest help in removing dirt or bacteria in our mouth. But, brushing your child’s teeth won’t work alone. Here are some helpful tips in making your child’s teeth healthy.

Reduce Sugary Foods.

According to a survey in Japan, 69% of parents said that because of the pandemic, their kid’s chances of getting tooth decay will increase, and eating sweets at home contributes to tooth decay.

I’m sure you’ve already scared your child when it comes to eating candies, chocolates, or cakes, saying that their teeth will rot and it will fall. It’s a little bit exaggerated, but sugary foods can indeed cause tooth decay. Sugars turn into acid that destroys the protective layer of our teeth, making them susceptible to decay.

For kids, they like the taste of sweet.[4] However, you need to control his intake to lessen the sugar. The regular brushing of teeth before bedtime will be a big help for his teeth. Also, fluoride, which can be seen on the toothpaste, plays a big role in protecting our teeth.[5] That’s why it’s necessary to brush your child’s after eating sugary foods.

A quick reminder: Taking away the sugary foods in your child won’t be easy. Especially if they are really fond of eating candies. The good thing is that there are candies that have less sugar contents or sugar-free at all.

Here are some less sugar and sugar-free candies that your child can try on:

Zollipops The Clean Teeth Pops
A delicious but sugar friendly candy that your child will enjoy

Eat zollipops after a meal. This will serve as a cleaner for your teeth as it removes acid from your mouth that can cause tooth decay.

If your child like gummy bears, this one is for your child. It’s less sugar and yet, it’s super delicious.

Smart Sweets Low Sugar Gummy Bears Candy
Delicious gummy bears with a low sugar content that your child would love eating

Say Hello To A Dentist.

Why does your child need to go to a dentist? Is it essential to visit a dentist? Most of the time, parents asked these questions, saying that there’s nothing wrong with their child’s dental health.

But, there are a lot of reasons why you should go to a dentist and it will really save a lot of time and money. One reason is that exposing your child to a dentist – also known as a “tooth doctor” will lessen the chances that your kid will be scared of the dentist. He will be exposed to what the doctor does, specifically on his teeth.

If the dentist monitors your child’s teeth, it can prevent decay or any diseases involving the teeth. Think of it as your regular checkup to his pediatrician. Seeing the development of your child’s teeth will help you develop good dental hygiene.

Tooth Decay in Kids

Here comes your worst nightmare for your child’s teeth – tooth decay. You see your child having black spots on some tooths, or he has toothaches. These are some signs that your child has tooth decay.

Usually, tooth decay happens because of too many sugary products consumed.[6] As mentioned earlier, sugar makes the teeth weak. That’s why brushing is needed to eliminate the sugar in the teeth.

But now that your kid has tooth decay, kindly visit the dentist. He knows what to do. There are available treatments for kids, and it depends on the severity of the decay. After the treatment, be more cautious in eating and taking care of your teeth.

Final thoughts

Brushing your child’s teeth will be one of the daily tasks that he needs to learn. However, it might not sound easy because of his behavior towards the task, and it is our job to find ways for him to brush his teeth. There are many simple but effective ways that you can do to teach the proper way and encourage him to brush his teeth. In the end, every time we get our child to brush his teeth properly, we also establish good dental hygiene that will him as he grows.

FAQs

How many times a day should I brush my toddler’s teeth?

Kindly brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day. One in the morning, and the second one is before going to bed. Brushing of teeth in the morning and evening will remove dirt and bacteria, making the teeth healthy.

How do I teach my child to spit out toothpaste?

Make a mini-game out of spitting. If you brush with them, count numbers 1,2,3 before spitting, then the first one who spits out is the winner. You can create fun activities involving the mouth and make them more interested in the whole brushing activity.

Why do my toddler’s teeth look yellow?

Teeth turn yellow because of the bacteria stuck to the teeth. It is caused by not regularly brushing and too much intake of sugary foods. This discoloration can lead to a much more severe condition if not treated.


[1] Mennella, Julie A., and Nuala K. Bobowski. “The sweetness and bitterness of childhood: Insights from basic research on taste preferences.” Physiology & behavior 152 (2015): 502-507.

[2] Clegg, Jennifer M., and Cristine H. Legare. “Parents scaffold flexible imitation during early childhood.” Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 153 (2017): 1-14.

[3] Griffin, Susan O., et al. “Vital signs: dental sealant use and untreated tooth decay among US school-aged children.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 65.41 (2016): 1141-1145.

[4] Johnson, Angela. “Kids getting taste for sweet early.”

[5] Koo, Hyun, and William H. Bowen. “Candida albicans and Streptococcus mutans: a potential synergistic alliance to cause virulent tooth decay in children.” Future microbiology 9.12 (2014): 1295-1297.

[6] Sanz, Á., B. Nieto, and E. Nieto. “Dental health; the relationship between tooth decay and food consumption.” Nutr Hosp 28.Supl 4 (2013): 64-71.

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Author

Diana Lucas

Diana Lucas

Hi, Diana here. Welcome to my blog and hope you like my sharing. I am a mother of 2 boys, 3 years old and a 1 year old. I dedicate my career in child development research and I focus on parenting tips, positive parenting, educational toys for my babies. Your time here means a lot to me! Diana A. Lucas

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