9 min read

Tips for Encouraging Resistant Toddlers to Brush Their Teeth

Along with every aspect of a toddler’s growth and development, oral health is highly essential. As you witness the gradual formation of your child’s first set of teeth, you begin to realize that getting your kid to brush his or her teeth regularly is both a necessity and a responsibility. Whilst some toddlers are cooperative and are always on the go for trying new routines, some resist anything new more than you can imagine.

If your little one does not let you touch or even get near his or her pearly whites, then you know you have a dilemma. However, before you feel stressed out, here are a few reasons why your toddler may dislike the idea of brushing and flossing, and some tips and tricks to make the process smoother.

Why Some Toddlers Refuse to Floss and Brush

It springs from a toddler’s desire for control and autonomy.

Toddlers naturally yearn for control and independence, and oftentimes, this comes with a steely resolve. From ages one to three, children experience rapid growth and development. When this is coupled with high energy and natural curiosity, it may lead them to develop a huge desire to control the world around them. This is one of the major roadblocks most parents face when it comes to brushing and flossing their toddler’s teeth and you may find your little one resisting your attempts. However, when handled properly, you’ll find plenty of ways to achieve optimal oral health for your toddler without denying him or her that teeny-weeny “independence” he or she longs for.

They lack motivation and think that brushing their teeth is boring.

They’re afraid that brushing and flossing might hurt.

It may be due to sensory and sensitivity issues.

Some toddlers also resist brushing and flossing their teeth because of sensory processing disorder (SPD). This condition hinders the brain from properly receiving and processing information obtained from different senses and usually causes people to be more sensitive to stimuli than others. It is common in children with autism but even if your child is not diagnosed with autism, he or she may still experience sensory processing issues. It is even common for adults.

Your toddler may fight and even scream just by feeling the bristles touching their teeth, the taste of their toothpaste, or the bubbles that come with brushing. For others, it could be the sound of brushing or the look of the toothbrush or bathroom, or even the temperature of the floor. That is quite challenging both for you and your little one. However, if you try to figure out what specific aspects bother your child, you can help them find ease and comfort in brushing their teeth. Don’t worry, we have some tips for helping you out with this, too!

How to Encourage Toddlers to Brush Their Teeth

Start young.

Lead by example.

Be consistent and make it part of the routine.

Like all facets of child-rearing, consistency is always the key. No matter how busy you may get, be consistent in brushing and flossing with your toddler. By doing so, you’re not only leading your kid to have a healthy set of teeth, but you’re also giving him or her the idea that brushing is not something that you could just simply ignore.

Further, toddlers thrive on routine and knowing what is coming next. They are more likely to fight something that is outside of the normal routine. If it is part of the routine, they may even begin to remind you on a day you are tempted to let it slide!

Use colorful materials to attract your toddler’s attention.

Spearhead positive reinforcement.

Feed your child’s desire for independence.

Be creatively accommodating for kids with sensory issues.

Brushing the teeth of your toddler might be easy-peasy for some parents — however, this is not the case for kids with sensory processing issues. If your child experiences this, you can start with small but wise steps until he or she gets used to the idea of brushing. You may begin by opting for a washcloth that is more familiar than a toothbrush - or even putting the toothpaste on your finger and gently massaging your toddler’s teeth and gums. You can also try a silicon toothbrush instead of a nylon one. The former has softer bristles, and the different texture may be more acceptable to your child.

You may also want to avoid minty toothpaste, as that might give an unpleasant tingling or burning sensation. (Some do like the minty feel, though, so it never hurts to offer it as an option!) Instead, you can opt for a kid-friendly toothpaste with delightful flavors such as mango, strawberry, or bubble gum. Furthermore, it’s often best to use room-temperature water in brushing your child’s teeth as cold water might be uncomfortable. This may sound like a lot of work to do but your child’s oral health is worth every ounce of your effort — always remember that.

A Bit of Extra Info

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119

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