Toddler Won’t Brush Teeth? Here’s a Guide for Parents

kids who don't brush their teeth

We know the scene all too well. They’ve got their toothbrush in hand, toothpaste on, but still your toddler won’t brush teeth? We’ve got you covered. This no-nonsense guide offers you effective tactics to conquer the all-too-common standoff.

Discover how to ease their sensory issues, embrace their autonomy, and turn brushing into a game they can’t get enough of. Let’s dive into making dental care a highlight of your toddler’s day, not a chore.

Key Takeaways from this article

  • You may find your toddler won’t brush teeth due to sensory overload, discomfort, or asserting independence, but turning it into a positive experience can involve using fun tools, establishing routines, and role modeling.
  • Making brushing fun for kids can include playful techniques and games, rewards for brushing, and involving them in the process to help build autonomy and good habits.

  • Sparkling Charms Dental Studio offers pediatric dental care in Baltimore, employing a gentle approach and providing a range of services, including preventive care and restorative treatments, for a comfortable pediatric dental experience.

Understanding Toddler Toothbrush Resistance

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Before delving into the practical aspects of toddler teeth brushing, it’s vital to comprehend the reasons behind their resistance.

The resistance to tooth brushing in children aged 1-3 years old, who still have their baby’s teeth, is a common issue, and it’s usually due to a combination of sensory issues, discomfort, and a desire for control.

For some toddlers, sensory challenges may render the sensation of a kids brush in their mouth overwhelming. Discomfort or pain, especially if they’ve had a previous bad experience, can make toddlers wary of their own toothbrush.

And let’s not forget the natural toddler desire for independence and control. They’re exploring their world and asserting their autonomy, and brushing is no exception.

But don’t worry! There are ways to navigate these challenges and make brushing a positive experience.

Sensory Challenges

If your toddler is battling sensory issues, brushing can feel like an invasion of their personal space. They might find the sensation of the toothbrush bristles or the taste of the toothpaste overwhelming. Fortunately, strategies exist to manage these sensory challenges effectively.

One effective way to make brushing more enjoyable for your toddler is to:

  • Let them choose a toothpaste flavor they enjoy, such as bubblegum, strawberry, or even chocolate.

  • Stand behind your child during brushing and sing a nursery rhyme to provide a sense of security.

  • Brush in front of a mirror to reduce sensory-related challenges.

These strategies can help make brushing a more positive experience for your toddler, ensuring your child’s teeth are brushed effectively.

Discomfort or Pain

The discomfort or pain felt during brushing can also contribute to a toddler’s resistance. Toddlers experience sensations such as pain, discomfort, or tickling differently, which can affect their behavior during brushing.

Discomfort during brushing needs to be addressed immediately, whether it is due to a hard-bristled toothbrush, a toothpaste they dislike, or a harsh brushing technique. By addressing these factors, you can help make brushing a more comfortable process for your toddler.

Control and Independence

The toddler mantra is well-known: “Me do it!”

Whether it’s tying their shoelaces, eating with a spoon, or brushing their teeth, toddlers are eager to assert their independence and control. While this can make brushing a battle, it can also be an opportunity to empower your toddler.

Of course, this can work against you in some case when your toddler won’t brush teeth out of defiance, but you can switch it around if you know what you’re doing.

Encouraging toddlers to brush their teeth can promote a sense of independence, even if the brushing is not done perfectly. Breaking the brushing process into smaller, manageable steps that children can follow helps foster a sense of achievement.

And when they do a good job brushing, let them know! Positive reinforcement, such as praising children and letting them practice on toys, encourages them to embrace toth brushing as part of their routine.

Tips for Creating a Positive Tooth-Brushing Experience

Having understood the reasons behind why your toddler won’t brush teeth, it’s time to discuss strategies for enhancing the overall experience. From fun toothbrushes to imaginative games, there are countless ways to transform brushing from a dreaded chore into a fun activity that your toddler will look forward to.

Remember, the goal is not just to get your toddler’s teeth clean (although that’s important!) but also to instill a lifelong habit of good oral hygiene. Keeping this in mind, it’s time to explore some creative approaches to making tooh brushing a more enjoyable experience for your toddler.

1. Fun Toothbrushes and Toothpaste

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Let’s start with the basics: the toothbrush and toothpaste. Believe it or not, these simple tools can make a world of difference in your toddler’s brushing experience. Fun toothbrushes, such as those with flashing lights or musical timers, can make brushing more appealing to toddlers.

And let them hold the toothbrush. If they feel more in control of things, they might be more into it. Make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time: Then they can copy you – this can work from a really young age.

But don’t stop at the toothbrush. Use fluoride-containing toothpaste, with a minimum fluoride content of 1000ppm, to protect your toddler’s teeth, and offer different flavors to make brushing a more enjoyable experience. Better yet, let your toddler choose their toothbrush and toothpaste. This promotes a sense of ownership and can lead to more enthusiastic brushing behavior.

2. Establishing Routine

The key to instilling good oral hygiene habits in children lies in establishing a consistent brushing routine, which is one of the essential healthy habits for maintaining healthy teeth. A routine ensures regular cleaning of teeth, reducing the likelihood of dental issues like tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

Try brushing at the same times daily, such as after breakfast and before bedtime. This helps children understand and follow through with their daily tasks. By including brushing in both morning and evening routines, children can easily associate it with other regular activities, reinforcing the habit.

And lots of kids want to be just like mum or dad, so watching you brush your own teeth might encourage them to want their teeth brushed too.

Children’s willingness to participate can be increased by involving them in the process of establishing the brushing routine, giving them choices such as the time or order of brushing. Remember, maintaining consistency in your brushing routine, even during challenging times, is crucial for teaching toddlers the importance of this habit.

3. Role Modeling

Parents play a significant role in their child’s dental health by maintaining their own oral hygiene and setting a positive example through their behavior. In fact, the mother’s participation in brushing is often perceived as the central influence in the family, highlighting the importance of parental involvement in promoting oral hygiene.

Make toothbrushing a family activity. Toddlers learn a lot through observation and imitation, and when they see you taking care of your teeth, they are more likely to emulate that behavior.

Parents using electric toothbrushes similar to their toddlers’ can model the importance of good oral hygiene and demonstrate the correct use of such tools.

The goal is to lay the foundation for good dental habits from a young age and making brushing teeth a regular task.

4. Playful Techniques

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Remember how we mentioned turning brushing into a fun activity? Well, one effective way to do this is by using playful techniques. Pairing toothbrushing with imaginative games like ‘chase away the sugar bugs’ can instill a sense of control and make the process enjoyable

Here are some tips to make toothbrushing a fun routine for toddlers:

  • Play music or dance while brushing to make it more enjoyable

  • Use songs or tunes that are around two minutes long to ensure proper brushing time

  • Use interactive toothbrushing apps or digital games to captivate their attention

  • Introduce a “brushing buddy” system with toys that mimic brushing

  • Encourage kids to practice brushing on dolls to learn through play and imitation

These strategies can help make brushing a positive experience for toddlers.

Adding educational tools like plaque-disclosing tablets makes brushing both entertaining and informative, teaching kids where they need to brush more to protect their tooth enamel.

Overcoming Common Tooth Brushing Obstacles

Despite fun toothbrushes and playful techniques, there will inevitably be days when your toddler staunchly refuses to brush their teeth.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone, and there are ways to overcome these common brushing obstacles. Employing sticker charts as rewards and incentives can facilitate the formation of a more positive relationship between toddlers and brushing.

Keeping toddlers engaged in the activity can be achieved by:

  • Providing distractions during brushing teeth time, such as giving them a second toothbrush to brush their toy’s teeth

  • Remembering that patience and persistence are key

  • Incorporating various tips and strategies to deal with toddlers who refuse to brush their teeth

It may take time, but with persistent and patient effort, you can encourage your toddler to brush their teeth. And again, it helps to familiarise them with the idea of teeth brushing.

Distractions Mean Your Toddler Won’t Brush Teeth

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Interactive books that feature stories about brushing can captivate toddlers, particularly pop-up books or those with characters whose teeth children can ‘brush’ within the book. Child-oriented videos about brushing provide an effective distraction that helps keep toddlers engaged in their brushing routine.

Another fun distraction? Watching themselves in the mirror while brushing their teeth. This can be a delightful distraction for toddlers, making the experience more enjoyable.

Rewards and Incentives

Children love rewards, and a simple sticker chart can work wonders in encouraging them to brush their teeth. Every time your toddler brushes their teeth, they earn a sticker. Once the reward chart is complete, they can trade it in for a treat.

Incentives don’t always have to be physical rewards. Offering your toddler the choice of an extra bedtime story, or exciting temporary tattoos after they brush their teeth, can also motivate them to brush properly.

A reward chart where children can place stickers for independent attempts at toothbrushing can affirm their progress and encourage them to continue developing good dental hygiene habits.

Patience and Persistence

As the old saying goes, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’. Well brushing isn’t Rome, but teaching your toddler to brush their teeth follows the same principle!

Patience, consistency, and persistence are significant aspects of the process. Continued perseverance in the face of a toddler’s refusal to brush teeth is vital for establishing a consistent oral hygiene routine critical for their future.

And as challenging as it may be, try not to show frustration or react negatively during incidents of resistance to having to brush their teeth. This could potentially create a more stressful and negative experience for your toddler.

Sparkling Charms Dental Studio: Supporting Your Toddler’s Oral Health

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If you’re looking for professional support in your toddler’s oral health journey, look no further than Sparkling Charms Dental Studio. Located in Baltimore, this pediatric kids dentistry practice is known for:

  • Creating positive and joyful dental care experiences for children

  • Founded by Dr. Irene Spates, a respected member of the MD Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

  • Setting a high standard in pediatric dental care

Parents have provided glowing reviews, frequently mentioning our success in alleviating their child’s fear of dental visits, the friendly and patient staff, and the informative and reassuring nature of the consultations.

Sparkling Charms is committed to turning every dental visit into a positive, empowering experience, guiding children toward a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Services Offered

Sparkling Charms Dental Studio offers a wide range of services to maintain your child’s oral health and prevent future issues, like tooth decay or cavities. From routine dental cleanings to dental sealants, we offer everything your child needs for a healthy smile, including care for their permanent teeth.

In addition to preventative care, the studio also provides:

  • Comprehensive restorative services

  • Gentle, effective treatments for cavities

  • Correction of tongue and lip ties

  • Sensitive, personalized dental care for children with special needs

  • Sedation dentistry for stress-free procedures

Your child’s comfort and setting their permanent teeth up for success is a top priority to us. We maintain a nurturing environment where gentle care transforms every dental visit into a comforting experience for children.

Our team provides individualized dental solutions that meet each child’s unique preferences and needs, ensuring a welcoming and informative experience for every family. An initial visit includes:

  • A discussion of the child’s dental history

  • A current evaluation of dental health

  • Exploration of suitable fluoride treatment options, taking into account any previous dental X-rays and current medications.

And rest assured, treatment may be provided on the same day as the consultation, depending on the case’s complexity and the child’s health history, with a requirement that children at a young age, under 18, be accompanied by a parent or guardian for their appointments.


And there you have it! From understanding why toddlers won’t brush, to practical tips and tricks to make the process more enjoyable, to overcoming common obstacles, we’ve covered everything you need to transform brushing from a battle into a fun activity.

Remember, patience, persistence, and a dash of creativity can do wonders in helping your toddler embrace brushing.

With time, your toddler will not only learn to accept when to brush their teeth but might even start looking forward to it. And remember, every small victory in the bathroom is a step towards a lifetime of healthy smiles, free from tooth decay and other problems!

Frequently Asked Questions

What to do when your toddler won’t brush teeth?

Let your toddler take charge of brushing their teeth to avoid resistance. Provide them with the toothbrush and a safe amount of toothpaste, and guide them through the proper brushing technique.

Should you force 2 year old to brush teeth?

No, it’s best to let your toddler take charge of brushing their teeth. Forcing them to brush or doing it for them could lead to more resistance. Instead, guide them through how to properly brush their teeth and let them take the lead.

How can I make brushing more enjoyable for my toddler?

You can make brushing more enjoyable for your toddler by using fun toothbrushes and toothpaste, establishing routines, role modeling, and employing playful techniques. It’s all about turning it into a fun activity they look forward to.

What services does Sparkling Charms Dental Studio offer?

Sparkling Charms Dental Studio offers routine dental cleanings, dental sealants, comprehensive restorative services, correction of tongue and lip ties, sensitive care for children with special needs, and sedation dentistry.

If you’re looking for a dental service, they’ve got you covered!

We can also help with educating your child on the issues of tooth decay, how baby teeth turn into adult teeth, and generally how to keep healthy teeth throughout their lifetime.

Find out what to expect on your visit here.

How does Sparkling Charms ensure a comforting experience for children?

At Sparkling Charms Dental Studio, they ensure a comforting experience for children by providing a gentle and nurturing environment, offering individualized dental solutions, and ensuring a welcoming and informative experience for every family. Your child will feel at ease during their visit.

Looking for a gentle pediatric dentist in Baltimore?

  • Address

    887 E. Fort Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

  • Phone

    (443) 681-6455

  • Email