[Parentsgroup-list] suggestions for teeth cleaning?

Candice M. Etson etson at fas.harvard.edu
Wed Feb 25 15:02:43 EST 2009

Toothbrushing is tough. I had to really work at it with both of my girls. Here
are a few things that worked for me:

I had success getting my kids to accept the toothbrush by using a
non-fluoridated toddler toothpaste. It probably doesn't improve the cleaning
action of the brushing at all, but it tastes good, so they are more likely to
open up for the "treat". There are several brands and types, so try another one
if your little one doesn't like the first one you get. My older daughter really
liked the Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry, but my younger one spat that out
like it was dirt and really likes OralB (go figure).

I also found that letting them do it themselves a bit before I "had my turn"
also helped with compliance. They just would chew on the toothbrush and suck
off a lot of the toothpaste when we first started, but eventually they get the
hang of it - especially if you brush your own teeth in front of them to
demonstrate. You can make sure to get the tough spots on your turn. At first
you may not be able to be very thorough, but you can work up to longer

I also found that making it a regular ritual helped because they came to expect
it - right after breakfast and right after getting pjs on.

And, finally, I am not afraid to make a fool of myself - I got them both to open
up wider by getting them to sing scales after me (in a faux operatic voice) as I


Candice M. Etson
Biophysics Program
Harvard University

van Oijen Laboratory
Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Harvard Medical School
240 Longwood Ave, SGM 209
Boston, MA 02115

etson at fas.harvard.edu
tel: 617-432-5480

Quoting Michelle Forman <mlf534 at mail.harvard.edu>:

> Hi everyone -
> I have a 17 month old whose teeth we have attempted to swab with a small
> toothbrush with water. He is now refusing to open his mouth for this
> exercise and I'm nervous about tooth / gum problems. Wondering if anyone
> could shed light on:
> effective practices, products, strategies for teeth cleaning at this age
> the age when a first dentist's visit is in order and any pediatric dentist
> recommendations
> thoughts on how often one should be brushing their teeth at this age
> Thanks so much!
> Michelle
> --
> Michelle Forman
> Doctoral Student, Education Policy
> Strategic Education Research Partnership
> Harvard Graduate School of Education
> 617-895-6455 (cell)
> 617-495-7661 (office)

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