Let’s be real, brushing your toddler’s teeth isn’t in your list of Top 10 Fun Children’s Activities. It’s not in their Top 10 either, as evidenced by their resistance time and time again. But brushing kids’ teeth at this early stage is just as important for overall health and development as healthy food, activity, and connection. 

At Children’s Dental Specialty, we encourage you to learn how to brush toddler teeth well so you set up good oral hygiene habits for the rest of your child’s life. 

(If you’re reading this and asking, “How do I clean my baby’s teeth?” then go to this resource for baby oral care sans-teeth.)

Back to your toddler. Your Scottsdale and Phoenix pediatric dentist, Dr. Veronica, fondly known as Dr. V, is here to help you tackle how to brush toddler teeth with less resistance — and more fun!

Brushing Teeth: Toddler Edition

“Time to brush your teeth!” you say to your 2-year-old. Your tone is chipper. You’ve had a great day together and hope the positivity will carry into brushing teeth. But it all comes crashing down. You’ve entered the “Toddler Brushing Teeth Struggle” experienced by parents all over the world. The crying. The running from the bathroom. The “No, no, nooooo!”.

As a dentist for kids in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Dr. Veronica has a few tried-and-true tips for turning oral hygiene for kids into a pleasant activity. After all, you’re in charge of brushing their teeth twice a day and flossing once until they’re around 6 years old!

How to Position Your Toddler to Brush their Teeth

Sitting, standing or upside down, how to position your toddler to brush their teeth depends on what is most comfortable for you and them. It might be different from your best position to brush baby’s teeth; that was then, this is now. Your toddler is, no doubt, much more assertive than before!

Use a position that keeps your toddler from wiggling around but still allows them to feel independent. Make sure you also have both hands free: one to hold the toothbrush, the other to pull back your child’s lips to see and reach their teeth better. 

Here are some ideas on how to position your toddler to brush their teeth that will make them feel independent, relaxed and entertained:

Kneeling Behind Your Toddler

Stand your child in front of you as you kneel or crouch behind. In this case, standing your toddler in front of a mirror might keep them amused with seeing what’s happening. Reach around them like a hug, brushing teeth with one hand and maneuvering lips and mouth with the other when needed. Your free hand is also useful for reassuring your toddler: holding them around the tummy, stroking their hair or holding their hand.

Sitting on the Floor or Couch

Sit behind your toddler as you both relax on the floor or couch. Alternatively, have your toddler lay their head in your lap. Who says brushing teeth has to always happen in the bathroom?

The Knee-to-Knee Cradle

Sometimes brushing kids’ teeth is a three person job: 

  1. Sit knee-to-knee with another person.
  2. Have your toddler sit on your lap, straddling and facing you like she’s giving you a hug.
  3. Lay your toddler down on their back with their head on the other person’s lap. 
  4. The other person can brush your toddler’s teeth while you keep them calm and comfortable. Or reverse jobs if you or your child has a preference as to who does the brushing.

Tips for Making Brushing Kids’ Teeth A Fun Activity

Make the experience more playful by using a children’s toothbrush. These toddler-sized, soft-bristled toothbrushes come in all sorts of cartoon characters and child-friendly themes. Some have timer lights or suction cups on the bottom. Let your toddler choose their toothbrush at the store so it feels special.

Brushing kids’ teeth should take two minutes. To make the time pass quickly, sing silly songs or talk through what you’re doing.

Brushing Techniques 

So now you’ve got the best position established. You’ve got the kid-friendly toothbrush. Now, what’s the best brushing technique?

Use short, back-and-forth motions or small circles on all surfaces of your toddler’s teeth. Brush at a 45-degree angle. Remember to also brush your child’s tongue, inside of their cheeks and the roof of their mouth. 

As for toothpaste, use a rice grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for brushing kids’ teeth up to 3 years old. For kids ages 3-6, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

How to Floss Kids’ Teeth

Once teeth touch, flossing kids’ teeth is just as important as brushing when it comes to oral hygiene for kids. Floss like this:

  1. Take a piece of floss about the length of your child’s arm.
  2. Wrap it around your two middle fingers with about 2” of floss between them. 
  3. Use your index fingers to guide the floss up and down in-between teeth.

You can also try floss picks made especially for kids. Let your toddler try flossing their own teeth with the picks — with supervision and guidance. Go over their teeth again if needed.

Learn How To Brush Toddler Teeth Together

Your dentists for kids in Scottsdale and Phoenix are far from suggesting more screen time. But watching a short kids brushing teeth video together might help your child get excited about it. Better yet, check out your local Scottsdale or Phoenix library for picture books about brushing kids’ teeth.

Your Pediatric Dentist in Scottsdale: The #1 Resource

Congratulations! You’re armed with the basics: positioning your toddler, how to make oral hygiene for kids more fun and brushing and flossing techniques. However, don’t tackle toddler oral care alone — Dr. V is your #1 Resource for pediatric dentistry in Scottsdale and Phoenix. Contact Children’s Dental Specialty today with your questions at our Scottsdale or Phoenix offices or to set up a first appointment for your child

Our state-of-the-art, pediatric dentistry practice embraces a joyful, kid-centered atmosphere. Every visit is fun and comfortable!

Dr. Veronica

Author Dr. Veronica

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