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Home | 7 Tips to Help Your Child Develop Better Brushing Habits Before They Start Kindergarten

7 Tips to Help Your Child Develop Better Brushing Habits Before They Start Kindergarten

Sunnyside Pediatric Dental

Marin Mommies presents a sponsored article from Dr. Sophie Taylor of Sunnyside Pediatric Dentistry in San Rafael

Brushing and flossing every day is an important personal hygiene habit with proven health benefits. Some children take to brushing easily, while others find it more challenging. When children are not cooperative at brush time, it can be challenging and frustrating for parents. If your toddler throws a tantrum every time you try to brush, know that you are not alone. Like any new skill, brushing can take time to master, so be patient and don’t give up! Use the tips below to help your toddler get comfortable with brushing and make it a fun habit.

Tip 1: Start with a Chart

Download and print a brushing chart  to put up in your bathroom. Set a goal and at the end of each week/month, pick a fun reward if your toddler achieves their goal. Bonus Points - Keep it going! At the end of the month, print a new chart and  try to reduce how many times your toddler missed their daily goal.

Tip 2: Take it Slow

Brush in sectionsWhile many toddlers are fine to “brush” by themselves, it is important that the adult has their turn. If your child is struggling to allow you to brush all their teeth:

  • Brush in 6 smaller  sections. Give a cheer when you finish each area! Bottom front teeth tend to be easier so start there.
  • Count 3 seconds per section so kids know when they get a break. Slowly build to 5/10/15 seconds week-by-week.

Tip 3: Brush as a Family

Families that brush together smile together.  Including your children in your own oral hygiene routine will:

  • Help get them excited to participate and have clean teeth like you.
  • Create a positive oral health routine for the whole family that you are more likely to maintain.
  • Encourage you to do a better job on your own oral hygiene.

Tip 4: Avoid ‘Cranky Times’

We have all been there. Tired, cranky and frustrated. These are not optimal times to work on developing brushing/flossing technique and developing a positive and fun routine.  While brushing before bed is important, this can also be major meltdown time. Find a consistent time for brushing after dinner, but before the tired tantrums start. Always be ready to seize the moment! Practice any time your child is feeling happy and in a good mood so that when it’s bedtime you are all ready to go.

Tip 5: Take Turns

Make brushing a team effort. While you should brush your toddler’s teeth for them to make sure it’s done well, include him or her as much as possible. Have your toddler practice on their own using plain water or a fluoride free toothpaste.

Tip 6: Make it Fun

Brushing doesn’t have to be a chore. There are many ways to make it fun such as:

  • Read books and watch videos about brushing (And visiting the dentist).
  • Play your child’s favorite song, video or take silly pictures while you’re brushing. I’ve created this YouTube playlist full of great brushtime videos for anyone to use.
  • Turn brushing into a game. Set a timer and see who can brush the longest or who can floss without laughing.
  • Play a digital brushing game like BrushUp.
  • Give your child the choice of color toothbrush/flosser, flavor of toothpaste, and which sticker to put on their chart.

Tip 7: Pick The Right Tools 

The mechanics of brushing and flossing can be difficult for little hands to master. Specially designed toddler toothbrushes (both manual and electric), as well as flossers without sharp edges are great choices and are available at any supermarket or drugstore.  

Bonus Tip: Start Seeing a Dentist Regularly

The sooner your child visits the dentist, the more comfortable they will be as they grow up with having their teeth brushed, flossed, and examined. California also requires that all children find a dental home and have a check-up before they start Kindergarten. To help your child develop a positive relationship with oral health, you should select a provider that you believe will make your child comfortable, encourage them to feel confident, and will establish a relationship of mutual trust and respect. All of these things will lead to having great patient experiences for many years to come.  


Sunnyside Pediatric DentalDr. Sophie Taylor is a pediatric dentist in San Rafael, CA and owner of Sunnyside Pediatric Dentistry. When she’s not in the office, she’s having fun outside with her 3-year old son.

Have a question about your kids teeth? You can submit your dental questions directly to Dr. Sophie online through the Sunnyside website.