Life with young twins is busy, from making sure they are fed and dressed, to cleaning up after the epic messes they can create. In all of the chaos, it can be easy to forget to take care of their teeth. Cavities can begin to develop as soon as your twins’ teeth break through, which is why it is important to start a healthy teeth routine early on. Even though my husband is a dentist, I will admit that we are both guilty of forgetting to brush our girls’ teeth and our twins have not always been willing participants in the process. Over the past couple years, we’ve managed to nail down a (mostly) solid routine and picked up a few tricks, thanks to much trial and error.
I’m sure you’ve heard the rule to brush twice a day and floss at least once. This also applies to your twins! As soon as they have teeth breaking through, it’s important to start brushing their teeth with fluoridated toothpaste, as recommended by the American Dental Association. My husband recommends reading labels carefully since many children’s toothpastes do not have fluoride in them. Once your twins have two teeth that are touching, it is also important to floss between those. We use flossers, since they are much easier to hold and get in our girls’ mouth than floss would be (and they also love to “floss” all by themselves when we’re done).
1. Start early
Thankfully babies seem to want to put everything in their mouths; it really creates the perfect opportunity to introduce the idea of tooth brushing. Our girls’ favorite teether was this Baby Banana Toothbrush, which gave us ample opportunity to introduce the idea of brushing with it. The Zoli Gum Massager would also be a perfect introductory “toothbrush” for infant twins. Starting to brush as soon as your twins have a few teeth helps them to slowly get used to longer brushing sessions, as more teeth break through. My husband also brought home some real toothbrushes for our girls before we started using them so that they had an opportunity to explore and become more comfortable with them. What if you didn’t start brushing when they were babies? Remember that it’s never too late to start. Just be patient, persistent, and make it as fun as tooth brushing can be!
2. Keep the brushes visible
It seemed that, until they both had a ton of teeth, we forgot about brushing more than we remembered. During this time, I tried to keep their toothbrushes where we spent the most structured time in the morning. For a few months, they stayed on our kitchen counter, so that I would see and (hopefully) remember to use them after breakfast, while the girls were still in their highchairs. Now that we’re working on potty training, storing them on our bathroom counter is enough of a reminder (most days). I also kept my tooth brushing habits out in the open (although that was pretty much because my girls refuse to leave my side, even at home). I usually just told them what I was going to do (brush, floss) and then let them play or watch me while I did so. One of my daughters even started mimicking my flossing in the morning, which just cracked me up! The best thing you can do is just be open to the fact that tooth brushing is just part of your daily routine, much like getting dressed, eating, and potty training.
3. Be flexible
I’m often guilty of forgetting the morning tooth brushing session with my twins, especially if we’re running late getting ready. I have even confessed this to my husband on several occasions! When I do this, he just tells me to brush their teeth before their long nap. I know how twin mom life can be, so it’s best to find a time that works for your family to get your twins’ teeth brushed at some point early in the day. If you’re not brushing first thing in the morning, try to do it after a meal or at a time when they won’t be eating or drinking anything right afterward. I know I said to be flexible, but there is one brushing session that my husband emphasizes is nonnegotiable – the bedtime brush. Brushing before your twins go to sleep needs to happen so that any of their snacks or drinks from the day do not sit on their teeth all night long. We have also found that it’s easier to floss during our nighttime routine since both of us are usually home for that time, but if it’s easier to floss early in the day, go for it!
4. Be prepared for “No!”
Regardless of how cooperative they are, a time will come when one or both of your twins will begin to fight or refuse to let you brush their teeth. Our girls have gone through several of these phases (and are currently in another), trying to refuse either one or both of us entirely. I think that this is when it’s necessary to get a little creative, without giving in to them entirely. Although the thought of trying to convince your strong-willed twins may be a little daunting, remember that establishing a consistent tooth brushing routine now will lead to fewer dental issues later.
5. Get creative
Convincing a toddler to cooperate is definitely harder than some might think! I feel like twins are even more difficult since as soon as one of our girls decides to refuse, the other thinks it’s hilarious to do the same thing. When they are in that refusal stage, it’s time for you to think on your feet! We’ve tickled them, made up a brushing song or sung one of their favorites, bribed them with sitting in one of our laps, had them hold their stuffed animals, and my husband has even turned their thrashing into a wrestling match (ending in giggles, of course). With my twins, it seems like you just had to turn it into a game, or greatly distract them during these times. A little positive reinforcement can’t hurt either. If you’re looking for someone else to sing for you, here’s a great link from the ADA for several tooth brushing songs.
6. Sometimes, you’ll just have to do the brushing for them.
My husband likes to say if the kid is crying, their mouth is open (he’s kidding… sort of). Our twins have both cried during numerous tooth brushings, but typically they will stop relatively quickly once the brushing has stopped. Wondering the best position to brush your young twins’ teeth? Have your little one lie down between your legs, with his or her head close to you. To keep them from grabbing at the brush, you can put their arms underneath your legs, too. This gives you a great line of sight into their mouths, so you can make sure you get all the leftover crackers out of the grooves in their teeth. This is actually the position we used when we first started brushing their teeth as babies, but it also helps you get the brushing done as quickly as possible when they’re not having it. Now they’re cooperative enough (for the most part) that they are able to stand or sit for us to brush.
I hope that these tips have helped you come up with ideas on how to start your own babies on the road to healthy dental hygiene. To be honest, it took us a while to get a tooth brushing routine going; life with preemie twins tended to be a little too chaotic at times. Thankfully my husband was persistent and kept tooth brushing on our minds as much as possible (one of the positives to marrying a dentist). Now, we’re over 2 years into this whole parenting twins thing, and I’m happy to say brushing their teeth is a natural part of our routine, although, they have both currently started another resistant stage. Our girls love to read the books The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist and Just Going to the Dentist. For a more specific book about taking care of their teeth, Brush Your Teeth, Please looks like so much fun! If you’re looking for more resources on children’s dental health or activities for older children, check out this website from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
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Heather Patel lives in the Finger Lakes of New York with her husband, 2.5 year old identical twin girls, and their rescued lab mix. A former special education teacher, she is enjoying her new role as a stay-at-home mom. So far, her first experience as a mother has included surviving hospital bedrest, delivering 28 weekers who had a nearly 3 month NICU stay, and raising twins with developmental delays. She also looks forward to passing on her love for the outdoors, photography, and DIY to her girls.