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How Can I Get My Little One To Brush His Teeth?

As an adult, brushing your teeth twice a day is just part of the routine. But what are the best ways to keep your little one’s teeth clean, and how can you teach them about the importance of dental hygiene?

As always, our wonderful community of Moms have some great suggestions to help if you're having trouble convincing your child about the importance of tooth time!

"Hi, Moms. I find it very hard to clean my 1-year-old's teeth (he has 9). He clamps his mouth shut and squirms away from me. He has been like this since 6 months when I started trying. Now I notice his teeth are yellow! I find that I have a better chance of wiping the teeth with a microfibre cloth than a toothbrush, but still am not getting them cleaned properly.

In the early months we didn't remember every night or still even now so I am worried that we have ruined his teeth. I have a 'first toothbrush' and one of the curved arch chewy ones and started off with the finger brush but nothing works. He bites fingers now that try to get in at his teeth. I am so stressed after noticing his little teeth are a bit yellow. All advice much appreciated. Thanks."

Show That All The Cool People Are Doing It

Laura: When you're brushing your own teeth bring him in with you, and get him to watch; and give him his brush with paste on it. When your finished yours, say "Yay I've no yellow teeth!” in a really happy cheery voice, but don't ask him to do his. Do it for a few nights and mornings, and see what happens. Hopefully he'll start to copy you, and all will be ok. Most important, don't worry about it too much: It could just be that he's unsure about it and needs to get used to it.

Daria: I used to let my son brush his own teeth while I brush mine. And then I take his toothbrush and say: "Ok, now mammy is just gonna fix it a little bit, just in case you've missed some." After we were done, I'd admire the great work he had done! Had no problems after that; he's 5 now and brushes his teeth regularly without complaints. Good luck!

Laura: I find that if you lie him down with his head on your lap, and get him holding a toothbrush as well, and it allows you to brush all of his teeth that way. I have a 3-year-old and 6-year-old, and I find this been the easiest way of brushing: You’re getting the back teeth also. My youngest has seen his brother doing this, so he just got into the swing of it at a very young age. Keep at it, and he will eventually get used to it.

Pamela: Bring him with u when u brush your teeth. And show him what you’re doing. Give him his own toothbrush to play with. Soon enough he'll be copying you. And when he is used to having the toothbrush in his mouth, offer him some help while singing toothbrushing related songs!

Make It A Game

Niamh: We made a game out if it. We used to go "hunting for creatures" with the toothbrush!! I'd say we needed a cow and we would brush till we found one. As she got older, she called out what we were hunting!! Slugs were her favourite as she knows I hate them!

Sandra: We got a training potty which doubles as a step as a present, which cheers when you push the handle! We used to push the handle any time our daughter did well. We now also give her stickers when she brushes teeth. Just the joy of getting the sticker is enough. Also when she was younger, the pharmacy suggested getting her to chew on the corner of a facecloth.

Laura: I used the ‘forever living’ toothpaste as it contains no fluoride, and I have the brush time app on my phone. My little one is 3 now, and can still be reluctant to brush her teeth first thing in the morning; but with the brush time app, we all have a dance around the bathroom to the song: It makes it a novelty for them!

Aoife: I gave my son a toothbrush as a teething toy found this worked wonders as when it came to brushing he only had to get over the taste of toothpaste.

Sing Along

Lia: My little boy hated it at first too, but slowly got used to it. We hum a little song: e e e e e for front and sides (closed teeth,) and ah ah ah ah ah (for open mouth part.) My dentist suggested I bring him along when I go for my check-ups, and she can give him a mini check up to get used to the process. It's hard, but try not to stress too much: He is still young. I just gently but firmly insisted, and he got it eventually. Hopefully your Dentist will have some advice.

Nicola: Toothpaste should not be used until two or three, my dentist told me. Buy a book about someone cleaning teeth. My son used to hate it too (I mean it was a massive struggle) ... Let him try and clean himself (might just bite it, and that’s fine) then you say: ‘Mom’s just going to do a little sing song while cleaning them.’ We used to sing: ‘This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth; this is the way we brush our teeth, every single day.’ He’ll also hate it more when teething, as it’s more sensitive.

Grace: Sing like the Little Mermaid. Awww-aww, awww-aww...

Stealth Mode

Margaret: Give him a brush, let him chew on it, and maybe then use another brush to get in and give his teeth a quick scrub!!!

Fiona: My son is 11 months and I bought every type of toothbrush for him ... I got baby dental wipes last week, and he went a bit mental and pursed his lips; but I made a game out of it, and in the end he let me wipe around his teeth and gums: Check out Smiley Eileey's Oral Health Promotions.

Michelle: Try the Dr Barman toothbrushes. They clean front and back at the same time so you get to brush them quicker. I find those toothbrushes brilliant. They are usually in chemists.

Geneviève: I was just going to suggest these. My daughters have autism, and huge sensory issues regarding teeth cleaning; and these are great !!

Clodagh: I stick some toothpaste on the matchstick monkey, and let baba chew on it himself! www.matchstickmonkey.com

The Power of Video

Sarah: I might get shot for this, but I have a game on my phone that is about brushing teeth. There are little germ monsters (friendly not scary) that you have to brush off. When we are brushing his teeth now, we make it a game of getting all the monsters. He now loves getting them brushed and even points out monsters hiding that need to be brushed!

Liz: We had to resort to watching videos!!! But she's happy! I give her her normal toothbrush, and got a baby brush electric toothbrush that I use to go in around, while she tries to brush her own.

Edel: My little girl was the same. There's a brilliant YouTube video of Elmo brushing his teeth. What we do is: 1) Hit play on the video 2) Daddy holds her facing me 3) The video shows tonnes of children brushing their teeth and opening their mouths, so she just copies them, allowing me to brush. We've had a complete turn around: Now half way through her night time story she's shouting for Elmo and teeth teeth!

Aisling: I used to have the same problem with my son. It was an absolute nightmare for both me and him. Until one day by accident we discovered 'Blippi' from YouTube has a great toothbrushing song he really liked. I used to play it for him and while watching the video he'd let me brush his teeth. After a while he stopped needing the video: I would give him my toothbrush and he could brush mine, and then I'd do his; sort of like a tooth brushing game. He eventually just got used to having his teeth brushed and now we rarely have any problems.

Don’t Panic

Faye: I know I'll probably be criticised for this, but my daughter didn't let me near her teeth till she was about 2. She's 4, and half now and her teeth are lovely!

Trisha: My daughter had little bits of yellow on her teeth, and I brought her to the dentist. He said it was fine, and that the enamel on children's teeth sometimes isn't as thick, and that's why I can see the yellow from underneath. She's 20 months now, and has just started to open wide for brushing.

Deirdre: You shouldn't use toothpaste until they are two, just a soft brush and water, I wouldn't worry too much about it at 12 months.

Nicola: A wet muslin square works … it's gentler on their gums too!

Sarah: Loads of time yet to sort him out. You just want to instill the ritual of teeth cleaning: It’s more about the process and routine at that age than anything else. So keep at it, and you'll get there!

And Finally…

Lucy: All I can add to all these wonderful comments, is a fair play to all you parents that are helping your child to learn good dental hygiene at a young age. Diet plays a huge part too.....avoid sticky food. Encourage water as a drink with food. Have regular meal times rather than snacking all day. Don’t get into the habit of food as a reward.

We spent yesterday bringing our 4-year-old, who has autism, to theatre for a general anaesthetic to get repair and protective work done. Besides the huge cost as it was private, he now has stainless steel crowns on all his back teeth. Only lost one tooth. He had a very rough day getting over the aesthetic, but is flying it today. Very hard to watch and know in part that you are some bit responsible. Find a way to do your child's teeth. It’s better than the alternative!

So what did you find worked to get your little ones to brush their teeth?

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About the Author

Emily is a Writer, Editor, Blogger, and our new Digital Content Intern. She has three awesome nieces, and has accidentally worn the same outfit as them on at least one occasion. Emily likes making things, including hand-drawn cards, and a darn good chocolate cake; and she still sounds very English, despite living in Dublin for the last eight years. More insight into the workings of her brain can be found on dancingcakesandsilence.blogspot.com.

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