Q&A: Toddler Tooth Brushing

Sleep Week is over, which is good, because it was making me tired. Why is sleep so much more gutwrenching than other kinds of problems? And now on to an easier question.

Elise asks:

"How crucial is it for two-year-olds to brush their teeth twice a day? It is so hard to get my daughter to brush hers that they only get brushed once or twice a week if we're lucky.  My co-worker was telling me it's OK if they're not super diligent about it until they're 3 1/2 or 4 - what do you think?  Does El Chico brush his teeth regularly? Do you have to pry his lips open with the toothbrush?"

I think they're really supposed to brush twice a day.

Having said that, though, I'll confess that El Chico only brushes once a day. Some days he brushes by himself, and other days I can get him to let me do it (so I know the back and insides are actually getting brushed).

What tipped him over into being a tooth brushing fan was the Dora electric toothbrush. Once that wore out, he got a Hot Wheels electric toothbrush. Whatever one you get, I highly recommend a licensed character electric toothbrush. (If they're going to market to kids anyway, why not at least make use of it for good dental hygiene?) And goofy fruit-flavored toothpaste. I've heard other parents say that they let their kids pretend to brush the parent's teeth as an inducement to allow the parent to brush the kid's teeth. We just kept talking about how Big Boys brush their teeth every night (and how Bob the Builder brushes his teeth every night), so now he demands to squeeze on the toothpaste and do it himself.

AFAIK, a 2-year-old should be seeing the dentist soon anyway (I've read that they should go for the first time at 18 months). You'll probably have to do a lot of practice ("and then the dentist sticks a cool little round shiny mirror in your mouth so she can see the back of your teeth!") and hype ("I love the dentist!") before you go. But then at least you'll get the straight story on how often you need to brush, and you'll see if your child is having problems yet.