Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weekly Column: How To Brush A Toddler's Teeth

Once upon a time, there was a baby. She had a sweet, gummy smile, and blew raspberries from a rosebud mouth. Caring for her was a breeze, for she required nothing but relaxing baths and lavender-scented lotion to keep her well-groomed.

Soon, though, she grew teeth, and grooming became more complicated. Cleaning teensy teeth was harder than her parents expected it to be. Nothing at all like a soothing lotion application; not even close to a post-bath snuggle. No, cleaning their daughter’s teeth was just plain difficult. She bit, she tossed, she licked, she squirmed. What she did not do, was enjoy having her teeth brushed.

Bewildered, the parents had to come up with some helpful ideas, and fast: the health of their daughter’s teeth depended on it.

During the baby months, they used a bathtime washcloth to simply wipe the few emerging teeth. This was less complicated than a toothbrush, and worked just as well.

As toddlerhood approached, they had to resort to trickier measures. They engaged the little girl’s imagination by pretending to brush her elbow…her forehead…her cheek…until finally, they got it right and landed the toothbrush on actual teeth. By the time they’d brushed so many wrong surfaces, the toddler was giggling – with a wide, open mouth.

To speed up the seemingly endless process, they sang silly songs, counted each tooth as they went, or pretended the toothbrush was a race car, zooming around a tiny track of teeth. They plopped the toddler right up on the counter, laid her head on a princess pillow/folded towel, and became royal dentists. Cave explorers. Precious gem examiners.

With practice, the parents became expert teeth-brushers.

And by then, the little girl was old enough to start brushing her own teeth. Which is the beginning of another story entirely.


  1. The best approach is to go at it in a funny way :) Sounds like you guys have done an excellent job!
    (I attribute clean teeth around here to electric kids toothbrushes.... best things ever!)

  2. Do you find that Mia and Lauren responded equally well to these sorts of games? Katherine always loved it when we pretended her toothbrush was a honeybee searching her mouth for bites of honey, but Penelope wasn't fooled for an instant. Brushing her teeth is still always a challenge, although I recently discovered that if I make up limericks, one after the other, and say them loud and fast and super-excitedly, she'll open her mouth (a little) and listen.

    So here's me at toothbrush-time:

    I'm the unstoppable mom!
    I'll brush your teeth all day long!
    Don't throw a fit,
    'Cause I'll NEVER quit!
    I'm the unstoppable mom!

    ..and so on and so forth...until we're both exhausted...

    I'm glad to know I'm not the only one out there acting like an idiot in the name of good oral hygiene!


Hmm...And how did that make you FEEL?