Helpful Pediatric Dentistry Tips!

Top Resources & Tips for Teaching Your Toddler How to Brush

by Dr. Steve Whittemore, D.D.S. | Published February 7, 2022

Toddlers and young children are constantly developing new skills, from learning their ABC’s to mastering the art of sharing. Although brushing their teeth may not be the most fun skill to learn, it’s crucial to their oral health for this habit to start early on. But let’s face it, teaching a toddler to do anything consistently can be a daunting task. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks to make brushing time less of a battle and more fun!

Brushing Basics

  • Just like adults, children should brush their teeth twice a day for at least two minutes. 
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists recommends using a small smear of fluoride toothpaste for baby teeth as soon as they appear. Children ages 3-6 should use a pea-size drop and just a bit more as they get older. 
  • Adding fluoride mouthwash to their routine like ACT or Listerine is another way to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, especially as they grow into their adult teeth.
  • Children can use either regular or electric toothbrushes as long as they have soft bristles and are small enough to fit in their mouths.
  • Parents are advised to assist with brushing until children are around seven or eight years old to ensure they are taking enough time and getting squeaky clean. 
  • Looking for a quick refresher on the proper brushing technique to pass on to your children? Check out our blog for step-by-step instructions

Don’t Forget to Floss! 

Getting into the routine of flossing from a young age is another major step in establishing good oral hygiene for your child. As soon as they have two teeth next to each other, you can begin practicing with them! To make it easier as they are learning, start by showing them how it’s done. You can try using pre-threaded flossers or floss picks to help control the string and reach all their teeth. These tools can be helpful as they mature and start to floss themselves.

Set an Example 

Toddlers are like sponges—they are constantly soaking in their environment and mirroring what those around them do. Use this to your advantage and set a good example. Make sure they are in the room while you are brushing your teeth and flossing in the morning and at night. Talk them through the importance of why we brush our teeth. Enlist older siblings or other family members to do the same to make it a family affair that they want to be a part of.

Stick with It 

With dinner, school, activities, and the stress of everyday life, it can be tempting to let your kiddo skip brushing at the end of a busy day. However, when building a habit, consistency is key! The more you regularly practice, the more it becomes ingrained into their everyday lives. Starting good oral hygiene habits from a young age will build a foundation of strong, healthy teeth for years to come.

Add Some Music 

Who doesn’t love to dance to a song to make everyday tasks more fun? Luckily there are tons of free, educational resources online to make brushing more enjoyable for your child. 


Youtube has thousands of videos for children to learn tons of different skills. By using popular cartoon characters and fun graphics, these catchy videos will be sure to have your kids looking forward to jamming out while brushing their teeth twice a day. Here are a few of our favorites:


This music streaming service offers many different playlists dedicated to children. This one offers almost a month’s worth of songs that all encourage proper brushing. Otherwise, use any song your child loves that’s over two minutes long and turn it up!

Read About Brushing & Flossing  

Reading books with your kiddo is a great way to ease them into unfamiliar situations and to teach new skills. It can also make them feel more comfortable before coming to the dentist for the first time! Try adding a few of these books focused on oral hygiene into their bedtime rotation:

Empower Them 

As they get older, kids tend to value their independence and doing ‘big kid’ things more and more. Empower them to make brushing their own by letting them pick out a special toothbrush with their favorite character or color. There are many different options of oral hygiene products made specifically for children to encourage healthy brushing habits. Just be sure the products they pick have the stamp of approval from the American Dental Association

Create a Reward System

Some kids may need an extra nudge when it comes to sticking with a routine. Setting up a reward system can be beneficial for creating structure and motivating your child as they build the habit of brushing their teeth. Use fun stickers or markers on a calendar and track each time they brush their teeth for the full two minutes. Every child is unique so find what will motivate them the most. It could be as simple as a sticker at the end of the week or a new book at the end of the month of consistent brushing! 

Find What Works for Them

If your child still struggles during teeth brushing time, make small changes that best fit their needs. Try switching up toothpaste flavors or the type of toothbrush if they have sensory difficulties. Use cool water instead of hot if they have sensitive gums or teeth. Start small by taking turns brushing their teeth or assisting with flossing for them until they get the hang of it. Instilling these healthy habits at a young age will save your child from unwanted dental issues in the future. Make brushing their teeth a fun part of their everyday routine with the tips above or contact our specialists at Pediatric Dentistry of Central Iowa for more information. We’re here to help make oral hygiene easy for both you and your child!

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