Home > ORAL HEALTH > Toothbrushing Resistance In Children : Tips To Handle

Toothbrushing Resistance In Children : Tips To Handle

Teaching and encouraging your child to brush his/her teeth regularly may not be an easy task. Children do not really understand why is it so important to brush their teeth, to say the least. This can be a challenge because most of the time, kids are only motivated by fun and pleasure. For those who have attempted to persuade, or even threaten their kids in order to get them to brush their teeth, here are some tips on how to make it less struggle and more of a success:-

Start early

  • Oral hygiene (cleaning of the oral cavity) routine should be introduced and started early, even before eruptions of the baby teeth.
  • Before the eruptions of baby teeth, clean gums with a clean wet towel or cloth which is wrapped around your finger.


  • A special finger brush which is made from rubber can also be used in cleaning the gum.


  • Start cleaning and brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. Wipe teeth every day with a clean, damp cloth or towel. Once he/she is comfortable with the cleaning routine, start introducing a toothbrush.
  • Start by encouraging him/her to hold on to the handle of the toothbrush while you brush his/her teeth.

Brush with them

  • Children love to mimic almost everything their parents and siblings do.
  • Sit in front of them and brush together. While you are brushing, exaggerate a show of excitement in order to encourage them to brush their teeth.
  • Make sure the children hold their own toothbrush and they can see what you are doing with the toothbrush.

Establish a routine

  • Insist that brushing teeth is part of an established routine, so they expect it to happen every morning and every night.
  • Allocate the right time in the daily routine where your child is not too tired, otherwise the process will be harder on both of you.
  • Keep it as short and sweet as possible. As the beginning, do not stress on the importance of brushing for a full two minutes.

Toothbrushing time as family time

  • Get the whole family to brush teeth together as one of family time, at least once a day, or even once a week over the weekend.
  • Let them play with the toothbrush and show them how to brush their favourite cartoon character’s doll “teeth”, or even let them brush your teeth.
  • Don’t forget to create the impression that tooth brushing is a fun activity.

Play music/ Sing a song

  • Play their favourite music while you and your child brush teeth.
  • Create your own song about brushing teeth and sing it along either while they brush on their own, or while you brush for them.
  • When they stop brushing, stop the music or stop singing and tell them that it will continue only when they brush again.

Location of tooth brushing

  • Tooth brushing does not need to be done in the bathroom only.
  • Let your children brush teeth while they are watching their favourite movies or cartoon in the living room (need supervision!!).
  • Brushing teeth can also be done at the dining room or kitchen, while your child sits on a chair and you stand behind him/her to assist in brushing.

Attractive toothbrush

  • Let them choose their own toothbrush with their favourite cartoon character or hero.
  • When you get the kids to choose their own toothbrush, you will give them a sense of control and belonging.

Image from http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/giveaway/firefly-family-toothbrush-giveaway
Image from http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/giveaway/firefly-family-toothbrush-giveaway

Tasty toothpaste

  • Use whatever kids’ toothpaste the children like most and enjoy the flavour of the toothpaste.
  • Let them pick out a bunch of kid’s toothpastes with different flavours and try a new one each tooth brushing session so that they can choose their favourite one. At the same time, you can use all flavours in rotation.
  • Be careful to use only a smear or pea-sized toothpaste on the toothbrush especially if the toothpaste is a fluoridated one, and children do not know how to rinse and spit properly.

Image from http://haltonparentsblog.ca/2013/04/12/brushing-my-kids-teeths-could-be-an-olympic-sport/

Give them a reward

  • Kids can be motivated on the importance of brushing teeth by giving them a reward.
  • Anything that will make them feel rewarded will always work.
  • A chart can be created where they can keep track on their daily brushing habit. Offer a special reward after each brushing, such as buying and playing with their favourite toy or reading their favourite story book.
  • Most of the time, verbal rewards like praises, are sufficient.

No matter how you tackle this issue, don’t assume that it will be easy and never expect perfection.

Points to ponder:

  • Keep it quick
  • Make it fun
  • Let them brush with other family members
  • Try at different location; try the kitchen, dining or living room
  • Get an attractive toothbrush
  • Get a tasty toothpaste
  • Use a reward system to encourage older children



Last Reviewed : 3 June 2014
Writer : Dr. Jama’iah bt. Mohd Sharif
Accreditor : Dr. Noraini @ Nun Nahar bt. Yunus