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How do you get 18 month olds to brush their teeth and not just suck on the toothbrush?

They love their toothbrushes BUT they just suck on them and really play with them. Trying to actually brush their teeth is such an ordeal. They scream and cry like we're torturing them. We use Elmo toothpaste which they love and they like the idea of using the toothbrush but the main thing is that when we try to actually brush their teeth for them they block us with their tongue and lips (and the crying etc). Any ideas? We just want to make contact with those teeth!

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Asked by gummylump at 3:48 PM on Mar. 12, 2009 in Toddlers (1-2)

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Answers (11)
  • lol this is a hard one my lo (also 18 months) does this also except she doesnt cry ...most of the time...
    i just show her how to open her mouth and i tell her no btting if she starts to bit it.
    maybe let them brush their teeth with just water and see if they will let you brush their teeth after they brush them by themselves

    Answer by vampire2007 at 3:52 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • Could you use a clean wash cloth with a little toothpaste on it? Although from what you say it may not work. Perhaps tell them that you'll brush (or clean) first and then they will be able to.

    Answer by Bmat at 3:53 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • wow I have the same problem with my 17 month old. let them brush your teeth and see if you can ease their fears, then try to make a game out of it.

    Answer by laadeedah at 3:55 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • First, is the Elmo toothpaste flouride free? Since they are eating it, they should NOT be using flouride paste. Once a child is old enough to know not to swallow and knows how to spit, they can use flouride paste - that's usually around 4.

    For the sucking and chewing on the toothbrush, you just have to be patient. Keep taking it away. Keep telling them no. Don't expect them to brush their own teeth even halfway decently until close to 3. And you need to keep doing followup brushing and spot checks until 8.

    For the fighting and screaming, again, you just have to be patient. Pin them down, hold noses closed, whatever it takes. If they think that fighting and screaming will get them out of it, they'll fight and scream. Once they learn that you mean business no matter how much they fight, they will learn to put up with it. Mine went through the same phase and eventually stopped fighting.

    Answer by kaycee14 at 3:58 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • My daughter is now 20months and i've always shown her how to show her teeth(BIG SMILE OR GROWLING SHOWING TEETH LOL)She thought it was funny and she does well now sometimes she will suck on it....try only water too for a lil bit.My daughter can actually brush her front teeth now so it worked!

    Answer by MommaSquishy87 at 8:57 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • This is kind of funny, but what worked for us is letting her brush our teeth while we brush hers. It doesn't work for very long... maybe enough to get all the teeth a little or focus on one area in detail (then we focused on another area the next day). Little by little, she's gotten better both at letting us help her and at doing it herself (she's 21 months now). Watching what we do, feeling what we do. But that was key for us to have her distracted by having her "brush" our teeth with our toothbrush.

    Answer by EmilySusan at 10:07 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • My son (17 months old) does the same thing. I make a game of it. He holds his TB and I guide his hands to brush the back of his teeth. A quick tickle will show the top front teeth and a quick brush takes care of those. A couple more tickles will usually take care of the front bottom teeth. If he brushes his teeth well he gets to brush Ducky's teeth and brush his teeth on his own (play with the tooth brush). If that hasn't worked then I have to be mean and use my finger to hold his lip away from his teeth and brush. He doesn't get to play with his brush then.


    Answer by chrissmom734 at 10:08 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • I've had the same problem with my 2 yo son. I've worried the neighbors will think we're ripping his arms off he fights it so hard. Letting him brush mine did not have good results because he was so rough. The headlines wouldn't have been pretty "Mommy stabbed by toothbrush toating tot." LOL
    Gradually it seems like it's getting better, though. I've worried that I'm going to scar him from holding him down and brushing. Then I think, which is worse, icky teeth or forced oral hygiene? I'm originally from Alabama, so the joke potential is too substantial. :-)
    Just today I was able to distract him with a video about fire trucks (his current passion) while I brushed for a full two minutes. It worked beautifully.

    Answer by PeachMom329 at 10:59 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • My daughter is 16 months old and loves to have her teeth brushed.

    After her bath when I'm getting it ready she gets so excited she's bouncing up and down! Lol!

    I always brush her teeth first. It's difficult sometimes and I've had to hold her mouth open to actually make contact with her teeth. Sure it makes her unhappy but it has to be done. After I'm done getting her pearly whites well...pearly white...I give her the toothbrush and let her go at it.


    Answer by madamekatekate at 11:36 PM on Mar. 12, 2009

  • I use one of those rubber finger tooth brushes. You have to make sure you don't get your finger bitten off though - lol!

    Answer by Ellena at 12:25 AM on Mar. 13, 2009

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