I am a mom with good intentions and lots of faults. I forget to send gloves. I let my little one sneak a piece of chocolate first thing in the morning. And I’m no good at keeping my patience during bedtime. One thing I am exceptionally bad at is brushing my toddler’s teeth. It used to be part of our bedtime routine when he was younger. Back when he was 18-months-old, I could turn on a Mickey Mouse countdown video (created in collaboration with Oral-B). The two-minute clip would unveil a picture beneath suds of toothpaste while you wiggled a tiny toothbrush head around inside your child’s mouth. Leigh would stop and stare at the iPad while it played, letting me maneuver around, getting every last one of his baby teeth. Two-minutes was almost too long of a time to wash his little mouth, but we did it every night thinking this was the first building block of a good habit.
Then the toddler years hit. The toothbrush became bigger and more uncomfortable for him. He whined when I took him to the bathroom for brushing, complaining the toothbrush tickled too much. He’d even gag as I scrubbed his back teeth, especially the top ones. I totally understood why he didn’t like this activity. And eventually, it became a fight I didn’t want to face every night. I let days lapse between brushing and even when we did get a toothbrush in his mouth, it was nowhere near two-minutes.
Leigh is quickly approaching the age where he’ll start regular dentist appointments. I’m terrified the doctor is going to say he’s got a mouth full of cavities during his first visit. We go to the dentist every six months for a routine cleaning and I have full faith our little one will have good teeth like his momma. But not if he doesn’t brush them!
I did what every worried parent does: I Googled “How to make your toddler brush their teeth.” The first suggestion is to let them pick their own supplies. Well, yeah. I guess that might work instead of the stiff freebie the dentist gave us. We wandered over to the dental care aisle at the grocery store and Leigh was excited to pick a toothbrush. He grabbed all his favorite characters and threw them in the cart before we knew it. We helped him narrow it down to an attractive Firefly light up toothbrush and the kid-classic Sparkle Fun toothpaste. This toothbrush, who’s motto is “Good. Clean. Fun.” has red, yellow and green lights that automatically flash for the recommended brushing duration. It encourages Leigh to brush for two minutes without tacking on extra screentime. Miraculous! The best part is, the batteries last the life of the toothbrush so when they die, it’s time to get a new one. I don’t know about you, but I’m super guilty of using the same toothbrush head until the bristles start to wear off.
That night, I stood in front of the sink with Leigh expecting another fight, but instead, he grabbed the brush, pressed the start button and went to town. I helped him reach the back teeth (and refresh the fronts, too). After he was done, he proudly yelled, “YAY!” Turns out this magical toothbrush reportedly “doesn’t tickle.” Hey, I’ll take it.
What used to be a procrastination card Leigh would throw down when he ran out of ideas for why he can’t go to sleep at night (“But mom! I need to brush my teeth!), my toddler now wakes up eager to sparkle up those shiny whites! And he brushes before bed.
There’s hope for a clean bill of health at the dentist after all!
SIDENOTE: I know it may sound like I’ve been paid to make these statements, but I’m just sharing my mommy knowledge without compensation. Someone else has got to struggle with this! And the toothbrush is less than $5. Do you know how much dental work can cost? It’s worth it!