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How To Get Your Toddler To Brush Their Teeth Without Power Struggles

How To Get Your Toddler To Brush Their Teeth Without Power Struggles

Getting your toddler to brush their teeth is usually a huge struggle. They are either kicking and screaming while you are trying to brush their teeth, or they are doing everything possible to delay getting their teeth brushed. If you are struggling to get your toddler to brush their teeth without power struggles, I was once in the same boat!

I used to dread brushing my toddler’s teeth, because of the huge power struggles we would get in practically every night. So how did we finally get past the power struggles and get our toddler to brush her teeth? 

You can read all about it below! 

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How To Get Your Toddler To Brush Their Teeth Without Power Struggles 

Connection Before Cooperation

Did you know what when your children feel connected to you that they actually cooperate so much better?! It’s true! 

This little bit of knowledge is especially helpful when it comes to any bedtime battles. Bedtime is where a lot of toddlers “misbehave” because a lot of their emotions that they may have not been able to realize during the day are now packed to the brim and start overflowing….que the bedtime battle!

Bedtime is often so stressful for parents and toddlers because parents are done for the day they have been waiting all day to finally have some much needed alone time. Children are stressed because they are mirroring their parents’ stress, plus add on top of the bubbling out emotions that tend to unleash at bedtime which makes teeth brushing a STRUGGLE!

We usually started our bedtime routine great! Until it came to teeth brushing, it was NEVER peaceful, happy, or fun and the power struggles we went through every night lead to everyone going to bed with heated emotions and we all disconnected from each other. 

I didn’t want things to keep happening that way, because I noticed that our feelings of disconnection were still there in the mornings! 

How To Get Your Toddler To Brush Their Teeth Without Power Struggles

To connection before bedtime/teeth brushing this is what we do:

1. We start our bedtime routine 1 hour before actual bedtime: Bobbie and Owen both go to bed at 7:00 P.M so we start our connection time at 6:00 PM. During this time, Tucker and I have our phones down, tv is off, and we do something that strengthens our connection to one another. We usually do something outside with a little physical activity (tag, slides, swings, catching a ball, etc.) that way all of us can get any emotions out through physical play. 

2. Wind Down Time: After about 30 minutes outside we come back home and cool down. That way Bobbie and Owen can lower their energy before bed instead of going from running around to sleep. We will read books, play with blocks, or just talk about our day.

3. Bedtime: Now that it is time to get ready for bed, both kids have had connection time with Tucker and me. This makes getting ready for bed so much easier! Even though I am getting the kids ready for bed it doesn’t mean we don’t connect anymore. This is where I flip the switch to the playful parenting mode. We sing songs, I act like I lost Bobbie’s pajamas, or we see how fast we can get ready for bed.

4. Lastly, we brush teeth dun, dun, dunnnn! This is where things get really fun! Why? Because we play teeth brushing games! Bobbie loves them and I always let her pick which game she wants to do. Below are some of the games we play. 

6 Teeth Brushing Games


Depending on your toddler’s age they may or may not get this one. To be completely honest Bobbie didn’t know what a dentist was when I created this game. She was 2 /12 when I started playing this and she has loved it ever since.

  • Basically this game goes as follows:
    • Bobbie shuts her door and lays on her bed
    • I knock on her door and go into her room and introduce myself as Dentist Mommy. I shake her hand or even her foot to get some extra giggles out. 
    • I sit cross-legged on her bed with her head on my lap
    • Then I start to brush her teeth! Simple as that! 

Stop & Go

This one is a great one, because your toddler gets to be in control.

This is how this game works:

  • Your toddler lays on their bed
  • You tell them to say “go” and you start brushing their teeth and “stop” when they want you to stop. 

There are a few rules with this game:

  • If your toddler says “stop” and doesn’t say “go” for a few seconds then you get to say go. 
  • When your toddler says “stop” you MUST stop. If you don’t stop when they say stop and you keep brushing their teeth, this can make your toddler feel like their voice has no power. Even if they say “go”, “stop”, “go”, “stop” super fast that is okay! Their teeth are still getting brushed! 

Animal Dentist

This is another one of our favorites to play. Bobbie has a very loved stuffed giraffe we call “GiGi” and instead of Dentist Mommy. It is the Dentist GiGi! If your toddler has a favorite stuffed animal, toy or blanket then have that be the Dentist. I get big giggles from Bobbie when we play dentist Gigi.

I spy

This is one where I spy things in her mouth and she says what it is. I over exaggerate a ton to make this game even more fun. This is what this one sounds like:

  • I spy something SUPER big, red, OH MY GOSH It’s wet and it’s covered in bumps! Bobbie giggles and says “tongue!” 
  • When I have spied everything in her mouth I move to her face. 
How To Get Your Toddler To Brush Their Teeth Without Power Struggles

I Brush, You Brush

I usually do this game if Bobbie is needing some extra silliness and connection. Here is how you play this one:

  • Get your tooth brush and your child’s toothbrush. 
  • You each take turns brushing each other’s teeth.

Mirror Brushing

This one is a good one to do when you’re teaching your toddler how to brush their own teeth.

You can do this game in 2 different ways.

Way #1: Get a handheld mirror and your toddler can watch themselves brush their teeth In the mirror. Even if you have a big bathroom mirror, a small mirror that you hold makes toddlers enjoy brushing their teeth more. You could even make funny faces from behind the mirror to get some giggles. 

Way #2: Tell your toddler to copy everything you are doing. This is like teeth brushing version of Simon says! So if you brush your teeth back and forth, have your toddler copy you. You can get super creative and stand on one foot while brushing your teeth or touching your nose. Then REVERSE the rolls! You copy everything your toddler does. 


Now you may feel like buying a super cool toothbrush that has your child’s favorite character on it or buying toothpaste that has mega sparkles in it (I don’t actually think that is a thing…but it would be kinda cool if it was!) will do the trick. In some cases that may be enough to get your toddler to brush their teeth but it may not last very long. Play and connection is a long-lasting way to get your toddler to brush their teeth WITHOUT power struggles.


Thursday 13th of January 2022

I’ve been having the same issue with my 18-month-old son but never had the time to research solutions since I believed it was part of the process. He has a habit of clenching his teeth. He throws a spit on the mirror each when we attempt to clean his teeth. I’ve tried various methods of doing this (positions and singing songs making him scrub my mouth while I clean mine). …). The methods were not working and we finally ended up wrapping him in an oversized towel from his neck to keep him from fighting hahahahaha. After reading this, we decided to try the Elmo brushy-brush tune and it was WOW! He loves it!

Jackie Wallace

Friday 9th of July 2021

These are great tips! Will definitely be using them. Getting ready for my daughter's first visit to the children's dentist here in Cache Valley. Wish us luck!

How To Deal With Your Toddler’s Terrible Two Tantrums. - Dollar Mommy Club

Friday 2nd of July 2021

[…] look like this. Do you want to put on your right shoe first or your left shoes, do you want me to brush your teeth or do you want to, do you want the blue cup or the green cup, do you want to play with cars or with […]

Scott Martin

Wednesday 29th of July 2020

Awww, so lovely post! Thanks for sharing this post here with us.

Dollar Mommy Club

Thursday 30th of July 2020

You're welcome!