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Is this a weird thing to be writing about? Maybe. I don’t know.
I love teeth. I’ve always loved checking out people’s teeth. The whiteness of them, the shape and straightness (or crookedness) of them. I just love smiles and what’s a smile without great teeth?
I guess that’s not totally true. You don’t NEED great teeth to have a great smile. My PaPa had exactly 3 teeth. The kindest man, the sweetest face and smile, and just three lone teeth in his mouth. I once remember him eating peanut m&m’s and I asked him, “PaPa, how are you chewing them?!” He simply replied to me “You just gum them a little.”
You just gum them a little.
Well, it’s safe to say dental hygiene was not high on my grandfathers list, but it is on mine. So let me share some tips I’ve complied to make brushing your toddlers teeth a little easier.
Just a heads up, I’m not a dentist or dental professional of any kind. Simply a teeth enthusiast with a three year old. (He was 3 when I started writing this. He now just turned 4) If you have tooth or oral health specific questions, please talk to your or your child’s dentist
1. An electric toothbrush
They’re fun. Period. My son loves picking out his new character themed tooth brush. PLUS, the spin brush aspect is a huuuuge perk, especially on those days when your child really does not want to let you brush their teeth. That added movement helps get the junk of their teeth & gums.
Work smarter, not harder. (Insert wink wink face)
2. Keep a routine
This is just so important for kiddos. If it’s sporadic, they’re going to be sporadic. My whole day is very go with the flow. I am zero percent a structured individual, UNTIL it comes to our bedtime routine.
Keeping it the same and keeping it consistent just makes everything go a little smoother. He knows what to anticipate everyday and, yeah, it just makes life easier.
Our bedtime routine is sooooo simple. You do not have to have an hour long bedtime routine. I’ll give a rundown of ours just for reference. It takes minutes. Seriously.
- Potty & wash hands
- Floss & brush teeth
- Apply oils and lotion
- Pull up & pajamas
- Say good night to dogs and daddy
- Skip, jump or “fly” back the hall to bed
- Read a few books
- Very simple but it is always the same. Every single night.
3. Let them help
So, you 100% need to be the one brushing their teeth. There is no way your toddler is capable of properly cleaning all the surfaces BUT let them “help”! My son uses a manual (regular, nonelectric) toothbrush and gets a few swipes in while I’m working on the opposite side of his mouth.
Make sure you’re getting the tops, sides and the very back of those back teeth. Believe it or not, this is a commonly missed area when brushing teeth. (For adults, too)
Ideally, you should be brushing for a total of two minutes, but toddlers don’t always cooperate the best. Just making sure you’re hitting all the tooth surfaces is doing a great job! High five to you!
Think of the mouth as four separate sections. Upper right, upper left, lower right, lower left. Then you split the 2 minutes into 30 second incriminates and brush each section for 30 seconds a piece. Again, this is on an ideal night when everyone is cooperating and life is grand. It’s not going to happen every night but just so you have an idea of what to aim for.
4. Distract them
That’s right. Distraction. Sometimes that’s all I’ve got to cling to on the nights he REALLY does not want his teeth brushed.
Some tried and true ideas……
- Count their teeth
- Sing their favorite song in silly voices
- Ask them questions like what color are your eyes? What does my nose look like? How many eyebrows do I have? These types of questions require thought and concentration because they’re kind of out there. This generally results in stillness while their little brain works
- Let them watch tv the ultimate distraction and some nights it’s the only way it’s getting done
To touch on the TV recommendation, I use this as a last resort. I try to keep the tooth brushing and such in the bathroom but if there’s a night he’s just not having it, I will ask him if he wants to watch blippi or curious George while I brush his teeth and it almost always does the trick. In my experience it doesn’t mess up my routine for the next night, either. Roll with the punches and pick your battles.
5. Let them brush your teeth
DON’T JUDGE ME hahaha OKAY, desperate times call for desperate measures and I am not above letting my kid brush my teeth while I brush his.
It is awful. It is foul. You will have a toothbrush shoved down your throat or jammed into your gums so hard you see stars. BUT…it is a very effective way to distract them enough to brush their teeth. My son loves to help me brush my teeth while I brush his, so I know this is a great way to encourage tooth brushing cooperation.
6. Stay calm
Isn’t this easier said than done? And doesn’t it seem like common sense? Man, it can be hard to stay calm when your kiddo is wildin’ out. But they’re watching you. Learning how to respond to frustrations by watching you deal with frustrations.
On that same note, they’re watching you lose your cool and they’re watching how you reign it back in. So if you lose it, don’t stress. You haven’t ruined them for life. It is a great opportunity to show them to apologize and that sometimes big feelings happen. No shame in our parenting game. Apologize, hug it out and move on.
Hopefully these little tips help you out at teeth brushing time.
If you have any tips of your own, please let me know in the comments! I’m always up for a great tip when it comes to this parenting thing.
PS. I did work in a dental office for about 5 years. I was a dental assistant and while that job ultimately wasn’t for me, I do thoroughly love teeth and oral hygiene. Again, I am not an expert or a dentist, so please discuss any concerns with your child’s dentist.