How to Teach Your Toddler About Proper Dental Care

Tracking PixelThank you to the American Dental Association for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own.

Toddlers don’t necessarily understand why it’s important for them to brush their teeth. For many, it can be scary having someone else place a big bulky toothbrush into their mouth. As adults, we would find it equally as uncomfortable if someone did that to us.

For many parents, their first reaction when trying to get their kids to brush their teeth can be to do things like bribe them with sweets (which is totally counterproductive) or even hold them down. The latter which is not a great idea, to begin with, as it may make children fearful and hate brushing their teeth (or having them brushed).

As a parent of four kids, I know how painstaking it can be at that age to teach your kids how to properly brush their teeth. There were (and still are) mornings that I would absolutely dread that time when the kids were between the ages of 2-4.

But just because it’s one of the hardest parts of the day that doesn’t mean that I just cave in and let them do what they want with their toothbrush (and neither should you).

Habits to instill in your kids early on

It’s important at this age start to learn that brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Kids should also start seeing a dentist on a regular basis. The ADA recommends that children have their first dental visit after their first tooth appears or before their first birthday. When buying products make sure that they have the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance.

How do I encourage my kids to brush their teeth?


Set a good example

One thing you can do is let your kids watch while you go through your morning (and evening) dental routine. Show them how you brush your teeth, tongue, and gums, and finish up with your flossing routine.

My 3-year-old loves it when my husband and I overly exaggerate each step in the process. And when we are done we make sure she sees how “shiny” our teeth are. Also be sure your kids start to understand how important it is to limit sweets and other sugary foods.

Make brushing teeth just part of the routine

Brushing should be a relaxing, enjoyable experience whenever possible. If needed, try brushing their teeth before they are tired. This could be before bathtime or even during bath time. The more relaxed they are, the easier it will be.  

Make it as fun as possible

Whether it’s singing or having your toddler say words like “cheese”, “pizza” or our favorite “stinky feet”, this is a great way to make brushing fun for them.  Even while making brushing fun, it’s important to remember to keep brushing short – about two minutes a session.  You want to get your child used to brush, so while you are in the early stages set a time limit, slowly increasing as they get older.

Don’t be afraid to let them do it. But don’t be afraid to also step in and help.

The truth is there is no way a toddler is going to do a thorough enough job of brushing their teeth. This is where it’s important for parents to step in and offer assistance. One way of doing this is setting an initial time limit on your child brushing their teeth, and then you following up at the end to “finish the job”.


This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of American Dental Association.

How do you encourage proper dental care in your kids? Let me know in the comments below!

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