We met with Dr. Fatina, founder of Gramercy Kids Smiles, a great new pediatric dental practice on East 15th Street, to learn some tips for brushing a squirmy toddler's teeth. Read on for her great advice!
I have been asked a lot of questions as how to brush a little one’s teeth. As we all know, getting a toddler to do even the little things can be a challenge at times. It’s important to establish good oral hygiene habits as early on as possible although its never too late. I recommend brushing 2x a day, once in the morning after breakfast and again at night before bed.
I started using a small wet gauze and banana baby toothbrush (which you can get from Amazon) before my son had teeth. Once he got his first tooth, I started using a regular kid’s toothbrush around 5 months old.
Here are some tips to help with brushing:
Tell, Show, Do. Kids like to do what mommy or daddy is doing. You can start out by brushing your teeth and letting the little one watch. Then, you can brush their teeth; sometimes, they even want to do it themselves. Always have 2 toothbrushes on hand and take turns. Making it into a game and showing them in the mirror can help. It also gives them a sense of independence.
Be Consistent. Routine, routine, routine. Brush at the same time everyday, in the morning after breakfast and before bed. I believe a little repetition will go a long way and eventually it will become habit for them
Make it Fun. Using stuffed animals and brushing on your toddlers favorite one can help make them want to brush as well. Make it into a game; singing songs and being silly also helps. If you’re stressed and having a hard time, take a deep breath – children feel and sense everything. Remember, it takes time before they will want to brush their own teeth, but it is a good habit that will last a lifetime.
Be Realistic. If one day they only let you do it for a few seconds, that is fine. Keep trying, and slowly add more time as they get older. The goal is to build up to two minutes once all the baby teeth are present, usually at 3 years old.
Distract. This is by far the best thing that has worked for me. My son loves glasses; if you watch the video you can see how I have multiple pairs on hand. I know that once he starts playing with the glasses, I can start brushing at least for a little bit, once he starts squirming I give him another pair and keep trying to distract him. I sing a lot as well. Any distraction works – TV, stuffed animals, whatever you know will keep them occupied.
This is what has worked for Julian and me. It wasn’t easy in the beginning, but now he sometimes even reaches for the toothbrush to try and do it himself. Brushing can be a struggle but it's super important for lifelong healthy teeth. Have patience, as your little one is learning a lot at this time.
Follow Dr. Fatina on Facebook at Gramercy Kids Smiles and Instagram @gramercykidssmiles. Let me know what other topics you would like me to cover and I’ll make it happen. We will be posting videos and tidbits to help get your little one into a good oral hygiene routine. Thanks for all the support and I can’t wait to meet you and the little ones.
~Dr. Fatina and Gramercy Kids Smiles Team