Mother helping young daughter brush teeth

How to help kids who don’t brush their teeth

Healthy teeth are important at every age, but getting kids on board with proper dental hygiene can be tricky. Many parents might ask themselves how they can help kids who don’t brush their teeth and how they can ensure a lifetime of healthy smiles for their little ones. Children who don’t brush their teeth are at risk for tooth decay and cavities, which can lead to larger issues later in life, like pain, infections, and problems with eating and speaking.1 It’s important for parents to help their children properly take care of their teeth to avoid issues later in life.


Here are a few tips to encourage kids to adopt healthy habits from a young age, and some ideas for helping kids that don’t brush their teeth.


How to help kids learn to like brushing their teeth

There are many reasons that a child may be resistant to properly brushing their teeth. For many younger children, the act of standing in place for two minutes to brush their teeth might feel like an eternity. Other children might have sensory issues and the smell, taste, or texture of toothpaste might deter them from brushing properly.2 Some kids may simply not like brushing their teeth!


Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks for encouraging your child to brush their teeth twice a day, for two minutes: 3

  • Make brushing their teeth part of their daily routine.
    Children thrive when they have a set, daily routine. Let your child know that brushing their teeth is not optional and that it needs to be done in the morning when they wake up, and before bed. Enough repetition will make this task second nature to them, and they’ll be more likely to do it on their own. It’s important to be consistent, no matter what. Even if your child’s normal schedule is thrown off track (by a vacation or special event), make sure that they know it’s important to brush twice a day.
  • Add music!
    Playing your child’s favorite song while they brush is an easy way to both set and mark the time and ensure that your little one is brushing for the whole two minutes.4 This is especially helpful for kids who think that brushing for ten seconds is sufficient, and helps to make the activity a fun one! Parents can sing along or make up their own songs to help the time fly by.
  • Add reinforcements.
    This may vary from child to child and will largely depend on their age and preferences. For kids who don’t brush their teeth, parents might employ any or all of the following tactics4:
    • Using an app.
      One way that parents can make brushing fun is to use an app to help their kids brush their teeth. Catchy songs and points might be all the motivation your little one needs to make sure their teeth are clean and feel like brushing isn’t a chore.
    • Putting a reward system in place.
      Whether your child is motivated by stickers or hugs or high-fives, letting them know they’re doing a good job by brushing their teeth can go a long way to building good habits. Not only will your child be thrilled by their reward, but they’ll be proud of their good progress. A sticker chart might be just what the dentist ordered!
    • Get their toys involved.
      Show your child how to brush their teeth by first demonstrating on one of their toys. Alternately, allow your child to brush their toy’s teeth first to make sure they’re properly cleaned before moving on to their own teeth. This can help your child build confidence in their skills and allow the parents to adjust their technique.
    • Call for backup.
      We hate to say it, but sometimes kids listen better to books and tv shows than their own parents. Thankfully, there are tons of books about brushing your teeth. Many kids’ shows have special episodes about dental hygiene; watch those episodes with your child to reinforce their routine.5
  • Make adjustments as necessary.
    Sometimes, just a few small changes can make the experience of brushing teeth more enjoyable for a child. Try different toothbrushes to find the one that your child likes the best. Experiment with the temperature of the water—cold might be a bit of a shock for little mouths, warmer water might be more acceptable. A kid-friendly toothpaste flavor might do the trick. Make sure you’re choosing the right type of toothpaste depending on your child’s age; fluoride is typically for kids aged 2 and older. Contact your dentist if you have questions as to when your child should begin using a fluoridated toothpaste.

There are lots of things you can do for kids who won’t brush their teeth

If tooth brushing is a challenge for your family, know that you have options. From trying a new toothpaste to apps to stickers letting beloved characters and stuffed animals speak for you, there’s a lot you can do to help kids that don’t brush their teeth. For more information on oral hygiene for kids and adults, visit the Aquafresh site.


  1. Children’s Oral Health. Accessed on 2/10/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.
  2. Brushing Teeth for Children with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. . Accessed on 8/25/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.
  3. Brushing Your Teeth. Accessed 8/25/2021. Referenced text highlighted in the source PDF.
  4. 7 Ways to Make Brushing Fun for Kids. . Accessed on 8/25/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.
  5. Ways to Encourage Kids to Brush. Accessed on 2/10/2021. Referenced text is highlighted in the source PDF.
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