Brushing to Independence: 4 Tips for Toddler Teeth Brushing

Every parent looks forward to the time when their child is able to go to the bathroom without help, when they can start getting dressed on their own, and when they can wield a toothbrush with just a little help from you afterward. A bit of independence can be a great thing – but how do you get there? If your toddler isn’t exactly cooperative when it comes to getting those teeth clean, try a few of these tips:

  • Monkey see, monkey do. You’ve probably noticed that your toddler likes to do whatever you’re doing. Use that to your advantage – get toothbrushes that are the same color, sit down at your child’s level and brush together. Let him try brushing your teeth with your brush if he or she wants, but don’t share brushes – tooth decay-causing bacteria is easily shared. Always check your child’s teeth and go back over them when they are done. Up to about age 5 or 6 children usually don’t have the dexterity or attention to detail necessary to get all of the decay prone areas clean.
  • Choices, choices, choices. Let your child pick out a special toothbrush at the store, maybe one with a favorite color or cartoon character. You can also pick out a few age-appropriate toothpastes and let your child choose a favorite. Typically, fluoride toothpaste isn’t recommended for children under the age of two, but your dentist may recommend it if he or she determines that your child is at higher risk for tooth decay. You’ll probably want to man the tube yourself – squirting toothpaste all over the floor may be just a little too tempting for your little one! Just a small dab of toothpaste is enough.
  • Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Let your child watch the action in a mirror. A full-length mirror is perfect, but if you don’t have one, arrange a chair or step-stool in front of the sink and stand behind it so your child can safely look in the mirror.
  • Treat time. If your child is motivated by rewards, feel free to keep small prizes on hand as treats for trying. Stickers and other fun but inexpensive items work great. Don’t use candy or other sugary snacks for rewards – you’ll undo all of the hard work you both just did!

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