Toddler Brushing Teeth

Toddler won’t brush teeth? Here’s our secret weapon…

Our little boy HATED brushing his teeth until exactly 5 days ago. We’re currently on holiday with friends, whose little girl is only a few weeks younger, and this game changing piece of advice was divulged on the first night of our the holiday. I honestly don’t know why, but it works. If your toddler won’t brush their teeth, keep reading to unlock the secret to shiny, tiny teeth on your little person.


Our teething journey so far

My son got his first tooth at 8 month’s old, and a few weeks afterwards when the buds had sprouted through, we began our teeth brushing adventure. “Adventure” has many definitions, but the definition I’m currently referring to is “a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome”, because every morning and evening, we had no idea what kind of reception the tooth brush would receive.

Over the last 16 months we’ve seen our son get progressively worse day by day, to the extreme that I took the dentist’s word quite literally when she told me we may have to pin him down to make sure his teeth are brushed. Yes, my husband and I have physically restrained our child whilst he screamed as though being hung, drawn and quartered.

We did have the occasional breakthrough whereby he would be angelic for a week or two, and this made me think that all the other times, he was just in pain from teething, and we should ride it out until all of his teeth had cut. Well, we’re now on 16 out of 20 teeth, and the angel child has become a total recluse, overshadowed by the furious gremlin that takes over him ever time the tooth brush appears.

We tried a few “top tips” along the way, I even bought this baby electric toothbrush as another friend had recommended it to me. No such luck with our little monster.


Our saviour – watch this…


What was THAT???

I honestly have no idea why or how, but it works.

My dentist suggested, besides the “pin him down” strategy, that we try distraction. The evening after our visit to the dentist 3 weeks ago, I sat with my son and brushed his teeth whilst watching a television program with him, and reminded him that the lady dentist had said that he must let mummy or daddy brush his teeth and be a good boy. It worked. The next evening, I tried the same thing…. failure every time I’ve tried this since. Obviously, the idea behind the distraction technique seems to work though.

I know we’re only 6 days in, but the change we’ve seen in our little boy since we started showing him this video is unbelievable. He still wants to suck the toothpaste off the brush when we first show it to him, but then I find the song on Youtube, and pass him my phone in return for his toothbrush, and this trade goes seamlessly. I ask him to open his mouth and say “aaaahhh”. He complies. I ask him to say “cheeeeeese”. He complies.

The video is 2:23 long, and although we’re probably only getting him to last for around 1:15 of teeth brushing at the moment, I think that’s probably a factor of 5 times better than our previous PB! Tonight, I didn’t even need to ask him to say “aaaahhh”, he did it all by himself as soon as he gave me the toothbrush.


How long will it last?

I have no idea how long this will work for, but this time last week I would never have believed we would be in such a happy place with teeth brushing as we are right now. When the time comes that he starts acting out again, I’ve been reassured by my friend that there are other equally transfixing teeth brushing songs on Youtube that you can work your way through.


I hope that this article helps you to overcome this bedtime battle and that you have the same success as we have. I would love to hear whether this works for you, or if you have any other tips for toddler teeth brushing, it may help somebody out in the future! Please share this article with your friends and family if you have found it useful.

5 responses to “Toddler won’t brush teeth? Here’s our secret weapon…

  1. Derek Marshall

    Hi There Caroline,

    Great site and a brilliant article, thants for creating and sharing it with us. Really appreciated.

    I have n’t tried the technique of distraction but what did work wonders for us was to create immense value and desire to do the same as us. We all had “magic sticks” Elect tooth brush and had a spare one for her of child’s one,

    We would get our magic sticks for magic stick time, show the little one her one but we would not allow her to use it …and we would run off to the bath room to use ours..let her see us having fun with the magic stick..then..with drawl..not let her see us (shutting her out from the bath room .. she ended up kicking screaming pretty soon for her magic stick and could nt wait for magic stick time by which time we made magic stick time fun experience!

    Our Kid love her little magic stick!

    1. Caroline Post author

      Hi Derek,

      Ha that’s brilliant! It’s crazy what works on these little people!

      We did try an electric toothbrush already (although we didn’t call it a magic stick), but that only worked for about a week before he got bored of it and would just hold the brush in between his teeth to feel the vibrations!

      I’m pleased to report that the Youtube video is still working a treat and we’ve now had almost 4 weeks of solid teeth brushing twice a day, our dentist will be sighing with relief!


  2. Sue C

    Hi Caroline,

    This is an inspired idea! I will be passing this on to several people I know that are enduring the tortured parent routine at teeth cleaning time. Do you think that this will work for hair washing time too?!

    Your site is so interesting and useful. I will definitely be returning to find out more techniques to make this increasingly bumpy, but brilliant baby / toddler journey run smoother!

    Please keep your interesting anecdotes and useful information going, Sue 🙂

    1. Caroline Post author

      Hi Sue,

      Well nearly 5 months later and I have to say that these videos from Kids123 are still helping us IMMENSELY for teeth brushing time! We’ve progressed through many of their cartoon song videos on YouTube, and our now 2.5 year old little man likes to choose his video each morning and evening, so we allow him that amount of independence.

      Good question with regards to hair washing, this is another battle that we have struggled with very recently, and you have inspired me to write a post about it – please check back next week and I will have published it!

      My second little boy is now 5 weeks old and I have to say, it’s only slightly easier second time round, but at least I have these little tricks up my sleeve for when he is older 😉



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *