10 Quick Tips to Get Your Kids to Brush Their Teeth

After I’ve enjoyed a family meal, washed, dried, and put away the dishes, I usually take a moment to appreciate all that I’ve accomplished in the past 24 hours and Iallow myself to get excited for the days to come. But sometimes, just as I’m beginning to truly relax, I remember: I still have to deal with toothbrushing. Wait-when do I need to start brushing my kid’s teeth? Once their first teeth have come in use a soft toothbrush on both the teeth and the gums. Cleaning the gums helps remove any bacteria from foods they’ve eaten. When your child turns 2, you can add a pea-size squirt of fluoridated baby toothpaste. That’s when I pull out my list of 10 amazing tips to get your kids to brush their teeth.

Two minutes too long

For so many of us, getting our kids to brush their teeth is like, well, pulling teeth. I swear, if given the choice, my kids would rather walk barefoot in the snow or eat a plate of Brussel sprouts than spend 2 minutes with a toothbrush and toothpaste. Bad vibes This anti-toothbrushing vibe has caused anxiety to swirl around our once comfortable bedtime routine. But here’s the thing: brushing one’s teeth is essential; it is not something the kids can opt out of. But young ones rarely comprehend the importance of good dental hygiene. 


Make a deal with your kids

Often the easiest way to get a kid to do something they don’t want to do is to make it worth their while. In other words, try a good old-fashioned bribe! If she brushes her teeth for a week without fussing, perhaps she earns 30 extra minutes of screen time, or stays up for an extra hour on the weekend. Whatever terms you agree to, the key is to stick to your guns and make a point of praising her thorough brushing each day/night.


Say it with pictures

Sometimes we need visual reminders, and this is especially true for younger children. Go ahead and hang up an illustrated schedule that lists each child’s chores and the times you expect them to be completed. For example, show picture of a clock (set to a morning and evening time) next to a toothbrush to remind them to brush teeth at least two times a day.


Take it one day at a time

Here’s another type of visual: hang up a calendar and let your child pick a different sticker for every day she successfully brushes her teeth. Choosing the sticker is something she’ll look forward to and filling up the calendar will give her a sense of accomplishment (and you’ll feel proud, too!).

kids to brush teeth


One chapter at a time

Distract your little one while she brushes by making up stories using amusing voices or acting out scenes with puppets or other toys. Consider adding on to the same story the next time she brushes her teeth; before long the suspense will get to be too much and she’ll be the one pulling out her toothbrush just so you can finish the tale!


Take turns

Have you ever asked your toddler to brush your teeth? Before you come at her with a toothbrush, let her take a stab at cleaning your teeth. She’ll love playing grown-up! What’s more, when she sees how you cooperate, we bet she’ll be more willing to go along with you when it’s her turn.


Play dentist

Have your child practice teeth brushing on her stuffed animals or dolls. Ask her to explain to her toys why they need to brush and what would happen if they did not. Having her say go through the motions and talk through the scenarios is a fun and impactful way to reinforce good hygiene.


Shop together for their favorite dental supplies

Every few weeks, allow your little one to pick out a new toothbrush and even a new toothpaste to try. There are lots of kid-friendly toothbrushes available so she’ll enjoy sorting through the different options. But more to the point, she’ll come away feeling like she’s had a say in the whole tooth brushing routine.


Dance it out

Throw a 2-minute dance party! Put on some boppy music and encourage your child to move his/her hips and feet while s/he brushes. Of course, you don’t want them to go crazy with a toothbrush in their mouth, but a little movement will definitely make the time go by in a faster and much more enjoyable fashion.


Search online about dental care

Search online for a 2-minute (age appropriate) video or a brushing app (yes, they exist!) to hold your child’s attention while s/he brushes. Choose something educational yet entertaining so s/he’s learning about more than just good dental care.


Make a spectacle

Plaster the bathroom ceiling with glow-in-the-dark star stickers, close the door, turn out the light and enjoy brushing teeth by the glow of the night sky. 

What do we expect? The truth is, without a bit of creative prompting, we can’t expect our kids to voluntarily brush well and brush often. So here are some ideas to motivate your kids to take care of their teeth so you can stop dreading the getting-ready-for-bed part of the night.


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