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How Can I Get My Child to Brush Their Teeth?

Brushing teeth can be fun for some children and not so fun for others! When your child is resisting teeth brushing, it can seem impossible to get them to brush their teeth. We have seen many children who initially resisted toothbrushing to later brushing their teeth completely independently.


Here are some tips for how to get your child to brush their teeth:

Teeth brushing skills are essential in teaching your child independence.
  • Make sure the toothbrush is not too big and not too hard/bristled. A hard toothbrush could feel too abrasive.
  • Have a sibling model it – kids love watching other kids do things and it can be motivating for them to see other children brushing their teeth.
  •  Take a video of another child brushing their teeth as a positive video model.
  • Have your child practice brushing the teeth on a doll or stuffed animal to increase familiarity.
  • While getting ready to brush teeth, set it up like a fun event to show your enthusiasm, saying, “Yay, we get to brush our teeth now!!” and clap with excitement.
  • Use a fun toothbrushing video online and play it while brushing their teeth.
  • Use either counting or a sand timer in short bursts so they know when it will end.

  • Provide 2 fun options for toothbrushes to give some control to the child.
  • Try different toothpastes in case the reason they are resisting is the taste of toothpaste or the way the toothpaste feels.
  • Find a good reward that is not food and do First brush teeth, then _____.
  • Direct them on toothbrushing using silly voices to make it into a silly game.
  • Use their favorite character as a model and cut out a picture of that character brushing his or her teeth.
  • Turn the toothbrushing into a dance party, but don’t let them hurt their mouth having too much fun!
  • Turn the toothbrush into a plane or other item going into the “cave” (child’s mouth).
  • Play a silly game of, “I’m gonna get your teeth,” and brush in short silly spurts (be careful not to hurt their gums with this one!).  
  •  It may be helpful to break the steps up into smaller steps (we call this a Task Analysis in ABA), and possibly start with put putting the toothbrush near the mouth, then putting the toothbrush in the mouth without brushing, then putting the toothbrush in the mouth with toothpaste, then putting the toothbrush in the mouth with slight brushing, then putting the toothbrush in the mouth with regular brushing.  The steps can be individualized to meet the needs of the child, which is one thing we do in ABA behavior programs.  
  •  If brushing for 2 full minutes is too long to start, don’t worry, just start with a shorter period of time, and add a few seconds each day!
Some children may need step by step guidance or individualized plans on brushing their teeth. Our team of experienced ABA therapists is able to create an individualized plan for teaching this important skill as a part of the ABA program goals. Acuity Behavior Solutions staff can also review additional ways you can help to ensure your child makes improvements through ABA therapy. If you have any questions about starting ABA, please feel free to give us a call at (714) 696-2862.