Avoiding the Brushing Battles

If you have children, youre familiar with the battles they choose during their developmental stages.  From throwing and spitting food, hitting, picking up toys, to doing schoolwork, going to bed, and yes, brushing their teeth. As a dad of five, Im quite familiar with these joys of parenting” and there are just some days when I dont quite know what to do.  

As a family dentist in Gig Harbor, one of the battles I might help you with is tooth brushing.  Brushing our teeth as adults is so routine, we often dont think much about it. And I hope you have your flossing routines down too (but thats a topic for another day). 

However, your kids are still forming their habits to have their routines established.  And this is your opportunity to make them more fun and more effective than not. Read on to see our great list of ideas and products. Spoiler alert: less work for you, more independence and confidence for them.

Baby brushing

Your childs oral hygiene routine should begin even before his or her first tooth pops through. Just gently wipe babys gums with a soft damp rag or baby toothbrush to get them used to the feeling. Until that first tooth appears, theres no need to use toothpaste. 

Once your child sprouts teeth, you can brush them gently, using a tiny amount (the size of a grain of rice) of childrens toothpaste, typically fluoridated. Note: If as a parent you are questioning the use of fluoride for your child, I would love to hear your concerns and talk through the pros and cons with you about this. Another spoiler: it’s principally a matter of balancing dietary factors and routine snack choices but stay tuned for a whole other post on that subject. Of course, I will honor your decision as the parent.

Younger children really dont need a full two-minute brushing routine but help them brush every tooth surface. Your goal is to remove sugars and sticky foods that need brushing to remove them. Try singing along as you brush the four corners of your littles teeth.  Cheek side, tongue side, chewing side” for each will make for a passable refrain using a tune of your choice. Or try singing to the tune of Row, Row, Row your Boat: Brush, brush, brush your teeth, brush them every day! Father, mother, sister, brother (or your familys configuration), brush them every day.” For some kids this may take more time, but it could be as short as 20 seconds. The thoroughness comes from accuracy and food choices.

Toddlers and older 

Clearly, it is important to continue adding fun to brushing so your children will associate it as a positive, valuable activity. 

Again, the goal remains to brush each tooth on all sides and your child have their toothpaste applied in the size of a pea.  Choose a flavored toothpaste, that your children like, and keep your kids’ toothbrushes clean, replacing them when the bristles fray, curve or show other signs of wear (littles love to chew their toothbrushes!).

As your children get their grown up” or permanent teeth, they should be able to brush for two minutes and add flossing to their routine. Once you are confident that your child has his or her good brushing skills in place, you can take on the role of observer until you believe they are ready for full independence.  Of course, part of the reason we like to see your children twice a year at Peninsula Family Dentistry is so we can observe their oral hygiene skills and encourage what they’re doing accurately, suggest a point or two to work on for next time, and review any suggestions with both you and your child. 

Help your child enjoy brushing

Let your child pick out his or her toothbrush (under your direction) in either their favorite color or character. Many choices abound and if necessary, two toothbrushes are better than none!

Tell a story (think “tall tale”) that you add to only during each toothbrushing session. Making up a story about a friendly animal or favorite character will keep them engaged and could even create funny memories for years to come.  Of course, you must be able to help your kids brush and tell a story at the same time! 

Or save story time for after PJs are on and brushing is complete to inspire them to get them done.

Apps and Toothbrushes

Today, a variety of apps featuring music and games, brushing charts and electric musical toothbrushes are available to help children between three and five develop their brushing skills with supervision. 

Several popular brushes include the following and you can get them easily online as well as in some drugstores (remember models and characters change so you may not find exactly what is on this list): 

  • Radius extra soft toothbrushes for babies and toddlers 
  • Jack & Jill “Buzzy Brush” electric musical, “Tickle Tooth” sonic, and their silicone baby toothbrushes
  • BriteBrush Interactive Smart Kids Toothbrush with Baby Shark or PIXAR characters
  • Brusheez Toothbrush Kits with electric toothbrush, timer and water cup
  • Oral-B Kids Battery Toothbrush featuring PIXAR characters

Apps families also enjoy:

  • Disney Magic Timer by Oral B
  • Toothsavers Brush Game
  • Brush DJ
  • Brushout
  • Chomper Chums
  • Pokémon Smile
  • Brush-Up Toothbrush Trainer


  • Dr. Lucas of The Dentist Dad fame has provided many of the ideas we see help kids and their parents achieve success with oral health. Check him out! We’ll be discussing other facets of great tooth care that he has helped simply and bring to families next.
  • Llama Llama toothbrush song (YouTube)
  • ADA Swat the Sugars Toothbrushing Chart (check-off charts are always helpful – depending on your child, you can modify the chart to “every tooth surface” or “cheek side, tongue side, chewing side”x4x2 as above).

Come see us!

As a family dentist to so many wonderful people in greater Gig Harbor and the Peninsula, we are committed to serving your dental needs from the oldest to the youngest members of your family.  Sound hygiene habits can make great strides against tooth decay, gum disease as well as help keep your overall body healthier as well.  Getting your children started on a regular routine is important. And remember, when you have questions or concerns, we truly are here to help you. It doesnt have to be your appointment time for you to call with a question.

Call us at (253) 525-5186 or use our Request an Appointment form here.

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