I know how difficult it is to teach your toddler to brush their teeth. I also went through that!
And I want to tell you that it will take a loooong time before they put their heart into it. So lower your expectations, especially on the first few days, and be patient. Toddlers are still undergoing different developments within themselves and are still filled with so much innocence so they tend not to understand what you say. Even if you say they’ll lose all their teeth if they don’t brush their teeth, they’d rather ignore you!
So here are some different ways on how you could encourage and motivate them to take care of their pearly whites because, well, they might regret it later on and even blame you for their crappy oral hygiene!!
1. Teach your toddler the importance of brushing their teeth
The very basic way to let toddlers be aware of the consequences as well as the importance of brushing their teeth is to tell them everything about it – that their teeth will be damaged because of the cavities and the tartar build up or that their entire mouth will be filled with bacteria that can cause different diseases if they refuse to take care of it. You should talk to them politely and with a soft voice so that they won’t be scared or unmotivated to learn.
2. Read stories or watch videos to show your toddler how it is done
If a simple conversation isn’t enough or is quite boring for your toddler, you can also be creative. After all, that’s what toddlers prefer. It’s advisable to read them stories at night because it’s much peaceful at that time. You can read stories about, let’s say, tooth fairies, or about people whose lives have been miserable because they don’t want to brush their teeth at all. There are numerous stories out there about teeth that also tell life lessons and show different consequences so you can just choose from those.
You can also opt to show them videos instead if you want convenience or if you’re not fond of reading.
3. Brush your teeth along with your toddler so that they can imitate
Brushing your teeth can be a bonding too between you and your toddler! And I bet it would be much more enjoyable for them if they do it with someone they love! Also, it would be easier for them to follow if they can see the actual way on how it is done.
4. Keep it short and simple so that your toddler will not get bored
Dentists say that you should brush your teeth for about 2 minutes to ensure that all bacteria, or at least a huge amount of them, are removed from your mouth. It applies to toddlers too, but we know how impatient they are, right? You can take it slow. Maybe on the first day you can let them brush their teeth for at least 1 minute, then 1 minute and 30 seconds on the next. They’re still learning so you should also make everything simple, one step at a time. Start with the front teeth on the first week, then the molar teeth on the second, then the tongue on the third, and so on.
5. Bring your toddler along with you to the supermarket and let them choose their own toothbrush kit
Sometimes, it’s not that your toddler doesn’t want to brush their teeth, they just don’t like that plain red-coloured toothbrush they have to use or the strong minty taste of the toothpaste on the bathroom! Toddlers are visual and they want to own things that are colorful and seem to have a ‘playful’ ambiance into them, just like toys. And they also looooove sweets! So next time you go to the supermarket, bring them along and let them grab that Mickey Mouse toothbrush and that strawberry-flavoured toothpaste they’re eyeing off!
6. Try a battery-powered toothbrush
Because brushing their teeth is kind of new to them, you can first let them use a battery-powered toothbrush so that it won’t be hard for them to reach those areas of their mouth that they’d find difficult to arrive at if they use an ordinary toothbrush. It’s very easy to use because all they have to do is to move the toothbrush inside their mouth and the toothbrush itself will do the most of the work. It’s effortless and won’t hurt or strain your toddler at all!
7. Let them know they are doing well
Who doesn’t feel good and motivated when they’re praised? It works on toddlers as well! You can say, ‘Wow, your mouth is so clean because you brushed your teeth properly!’ or ‘You’re being so good at brushing your teeth!’ or whatever. It will make them smile and happy, and they might also begin to look forward to the next brushing sessions on the following days! But keep in mind that there’s a limitation to praising them. It might have an adverse effect if you choose the wrong words and you shouldn’t overdo it, definitely.
8. Accompany brushing with sounds
There are lots of benefits toddlers can get from music. It increases their sensory development, helps them recognize patterns, builds their vocabulary, and makes them improve their mood. All effects are positive and are leading to exhilaration, so just imagine if you use it to encourage them to brush their teeth – they’ll do it happily and they might even dance while doing it! Accompanying every activity with music makes toddlers and children enjoy every minute of it. So you might as well dance with them because, well, finally!
9. Make it fun by giving rewards
This is also one thing that toddlers love – rewards! And without a doubt, it will trigger them to brush their teeth because they have a goal, and their goal is to get those chocolates! Or their favourite toy! Or that awesome trip to amusement park!
10. Make it a part of their daily routine
The most effective way to get used to something is to do it every day. It takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, according to studies, so you should be patient with this. You can set a schedule for your toddler to brush their teeth or set it every after meal and let them do it for a few weeks until they don’t have to be supervised anymore.