How to Brush Your Toddler’s Teeth, an Epic Tale

Good oral hygiene is a skill we must teach our kiddos.  As soon as those pearly whites come in, it is time to care for those babies.  At first you can just wipe down gently with a wet washcloth after meals.  Now that my boy is 17 months and has a lot of teeth to care for, I decided to upgrade to an actual toothbrush. I have to admit, this has not been an easy process.  I imagined us in the bathroom, brushing away, having one of those family moments to cherish.  So far, I would rather forget. 

My experience has been rather painful, but parents who have not yet surpassed this milestone can learn from my story. In my experience, brushing your toddler’s teeth goes a little something like this:

Good Intentions

You start by purchasing an overly-priced toothbrush on Amazon–we love that free two-day shipping with Prime! Next you forget about it for around a week and finally open the box and remember you need to be brushing.  So you make a vow to make sure he brushes his teeth twice a day for the rest his life and pray they haven’t started rotting.

Hopeful Beginnings

Once the box is opened, your toddler’s eye catches this new and mysterious package and he immediately takes an interest, and reacts as if it is air to a suffocating man.  He starts screaming and reaching for it and you hurriedly hand it over. You think, “Wow, my boy is gonna be one of those easy kids who loves hygiene! I am so lucky.” He shoves the toothbrush in his mouth and begins to chew.  YES! Victory, how easy was this?! After a few minutes and a pile of drool pooling on the floor, you realize he has only “brushed” on one side, so you move in to take over.

The Meltdown

This causes your toddler to flip. This is his toothbrush and he is not ready to do anything other than the current process.  He takes off running and screaming down the hallway.  You chase him around the house until finally you catch him. You go to finish brushing, but the toothbrush is now gone. 

Lowered Standards

After 20 minutes you finally find the toothbrush under a chair in a room he hasn’t even been in today. (How do they do this?)   You pull it out and discover it’s now coated in a fine sheath of dog hair and dust.  Toddler now catches you with his new favorite item and starts reaching and screaming for it yet again.  You try to go clean it off, but after high-pitched screams and 29 pounds of dead weight around your legs, you decide to wipe it off on your pants and return it. 

Tricks and Strategies

He has now miraculously moved to the other side of his mouth, but you realize there are still the front teeth.  You watch and hope he moves to them on his own.  He does not.  Forming a new strategy, you pick up your toddler and head to the bathroom, thinking a mirror will be entertaining for him to watch as you help him finish. 

The Final Showdown

You go to grab the toothbrush to finish and your toddler’s killer death grip has now created a tug-of-war between the two of you.  High-pitched screams now return as you win tug-of-war and attempt to brush the final front teeth.  You hope his screams won’t elicit a call to DHS from neighbors, but the thought leaves you quickly as you are now wrestling a toddler in your tiny bathroom. You realize you have a demon-possessed body of a toddler who believes you are torturing him.

The Resolution

Finally, you give up and hope his teeth don’t fall out by age five. Depending on his mood, you will try again tonight. You will likely forget.  

Next on the list: toddler’s first haircut. 


Megan, an Iowa native from West Branch, shares her home with husband Cody, their three kids (Charlie-8 Gwen-6 & Ben-2) and 2 dogs (Dottie- lab-basset mix & Ham-all basset). When she is not smooching on them she is trying to change lives as a social worker, taking walks around their Iowa City neighborhood or cruising in Rita her minivan looking to score deals at local thrift stores. Check our her finds on her Instagram page @megthethriftingqueen.


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