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When your kids don't remember to brush their teeth

I think that I say it at least once every morning:  Did you brush your teeth?   What do you do when your kids don’t remember to brush their teeth?  Shouldn’t be it be as common as using the bathroom when you wake up, or getting out of your pajamas and into your clothes, or making your bed in the morning?  Brush your teeth.  Simple.

Yet, every day, without fail, I find myself saying “You didn’t brush your teeth, did you?  Really?  That is gross – how can you just not brush your teeth?  I don’t understand.  Go back upstairs and brush your teeth.”   Yes- a little honesty coming out there, but that’s the conversation that happens here.

Four kids… that’s a lot of teeth… and they all need to be cleaned.  Brushed, flossed and rinsed with mouthwash.  Five minutes, total.  It’s really not a lot to remember.

What do you do when your kids don’t remember to brush their teeth?
Try this:

  • Be an example.  
    When I feel like my kids are forgetting more & more often, I start having them come in and brush their teeth in my bathroom, while I brush my own teeth.  The kids use Silly Strawberry toothpaste, while Mickey and I use Simply White or Luminous White –  Tom’s of Maine’s most advanced naturally whitening toothpaste.   (You can buy it at Target)

    A tube of Tom\'s tooth paste lying on a counter with it\'s box behind it.

  • I talk to them about the reasons that we brush our teeth. 
    Talk to your kids about why it’s important to pick the right toothpaste.  I explain what happens when we don’t brush.  I talk to them about how we need to take care of our teeth and our bodies.  As we become more conscious about what we put in and on our bodies, natural oral care leader Tom’s of Maine’s most advanced natural whitening toothpaste Luminous White is our top choice.  They offer safe, effective whitening with only naturally-derived ingredients that work to remove surface stains for whiter teeth.  They remove stains quickly, too-  in two weeks.
    Luminous White™ is comprised of biodegradable ingredients, mineral-derived ingredients and water. It contains no artificial ingredients and it is paraben-free.   Plus, the kids need to understand that brushing regularly with Tom’s of Maine toothpaste helps prevent tartar build-up.

  • Set up a basket.
    I have a little basket in their bathroom that has their toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss & mouthwash.  I have the same basket in my bathroom and it has our Simply White toothpaste, our toothbrushes, our floss & our mouthwash.   Every night, I get the basket out so they see it in the morning.  Every morning, when they are dressed & ready to go for the day, I put it away, under the cabinet.A close up of a variety of Tom\'s tooth paste, mouth wash and floss in a wire rack.
  • If I remind them once and they still don’t brush them, they lose something that they love for the day.
    I am determined to have kids that have good hygiene and brushing their teeth is a simple part of that… getting rid of something that they love sets a good reminder.  Maybe it’s TV time, or their iPod, or snacks… but get rid of something and tell them that you need them to brush their teeth to get it back.
  • Have a chart in their room.
    Our oldest son has a simple whiteboard in his room and it says four things:
    1- Make Bed.
    2- Open shutters.
    3- Put clothes away.
    4- Brush teeth.
    He made this list himself as a way to remember these things, because these were the things that he knew he had to do in order to avoid getting into trouble.   I will say that some days he comes downstairs and doesn’t do any of them, but most days, he comes downstairs dressed for the day with his room clean & teeth brushed.
    Some kids are list-makers and need reminders written out.  I’m one of those people (I am a list-maker) Make a simple list- you don’t need anything fancy.  Make it as simple as possible.
  • Put their toothpaste in a fun dispenser.  Our kids had one of those wall dispensers for a while, but it kept breaking so we gave up on it.   If your child wants to try it, it should hopefully last longer in your house than it did in ours. :).
  • Put toothpaste on their toothbrush in the morning or before bed.
    I was just talking to our kids and I said “What are your best ideas to remind other kids to brush their teeth?”  and this was the suggestion that they gave.  They said that when they sleep over at my parent’s house, my mom does that.   Beau said “It always reminds us because we see it when we use the bathroom in the morning.”  Jack followed up with “If you don’t brush them, the toothpaste will stay there and then… busted.”   🙂
  • Let them pick their toothbrush & toothpaste.
    As I said, our kids like Tom’s of Maine’s Silly Strawberry, but Mickey and I like Luminous White.  It contains no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or artificial sweeteners (like saccharin).   It is not tested on animals and it’s gluten free.  I talk to our kids about why it’s a good choice for them to pick Tom’s of Maine, as well as us.  With every purchase, they donate 10% of profits back to helping people and the planet.   I like the taste & how well it works, but that 10% is a great reason, nonetheless.  Even their packages are fully recyclable.All in all, teaching our kids to brush their teeth twice a day is so important.

    Be a great example of that – let your kids see you brushing your teeth.

    Ps- if that doesn’t work, print this school-morning chart.  Works like a charm. 🙂
    Screen shot list of chores.

Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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  1. My little girl actually really likes brushing her teeth, but refuses to let me do ANY of it. This would be fine but she isn’t doing it thoroughly enough (shes 3) and our last visit to the dentist proved she had a little plaque build up. Any tips on how I can get her to just let me do a little brushing without having to deal with a full on toddler melt down.

    1. I just work on it every night. Try buying a fun toothbrush that lights up (our kids loved it) or let her pick out the toothbrush. I always brush them myself at night and let them brush them in the morning (or the other way around) so they are practicing, but I am brushing them well at least once a day. 😉

  2. I don’t understand the no screentime rule in the morning. Do they actually get screentime in the morning if they do those things? We don’t have screentime in the morning. Period. Any idea how to get my 14-year-old to brush teeth in the morning without my having to nag and ask and bribe?

    1. You won’t want to hear this, but when our child didn’t brush his teeth one time, I took his toothbrush & toothpaste to school. I had him called out of class and gave it to him, discreetly. I told him that if it ever happened again, I would not be as discrete. He knew I was serious and never forgot again.