How To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

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While some babies are born with a few teeth, most of them are all gums. Before long though, little baby teeth will start to emerge. It doesn’t happen all at once. It will just be one or two at first. Then, a couple more. Then one day, your little one will be flashing a full set of pearly whites. Naturally, you’ll want to take good care of these teeth to make sure that your baby’s smile stays as cute as ever.

Before Baby’s Teeth Come In

Good oral hygiene begins even before your baby’s first teeth arrive. While it’s true that bacteria generally won’t be able to get through your little one’s gums to reach their teeth, it’s still a good idea to keep your baby’s mouth clean. Sometimes, it can be hard to tell exactly when those first teeth start to emerge. By keeping your baby’s mouth bacteria free, you help to ensure that those first teeth will stay clean once they do begin to poke through.

The best way to care for your little one’s gums is to gently rub them with a soft, wet washcloth or gauze after meals and before bed. There is no need to use toothpaste or a toothbrush at this point, since teeth haven’t started erupting yet.

Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth

Most babies start teething when they are 4 – 6 months old. However, anywhere in the 3 – 14 month range is considered normal. Once your baby’s teeth do start coming in, you’ll want to begin brushing.

baby brushing teeth

Toothbrush And Toothpaste

In order to brush, you will need a baby toothbrush with a small head and infant toothpaste. You might want to get a colorful toothbrush with one of your baby’s favorite characters on it to make brushing seem a little more fun. Be sure to replace this toothbrush whenever the bristles start to fray or look worn.

In the past, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommended using fluoride free toothpaste until age 2. However, this has changed, and the current AAPD recommendation is to begin using toothpaste with fluoride once your baby’s first tooth arrives. A lot of infant toothpastes do not contain fluoride. So, be sure to pick one that does.

When And How To Brush

The best practice is to brush your baby’s teeth twice each day: once in the morning and once at night.

You should only put a tiny amount of toothpaste onto the brush. Until age three, the amount of toothpaste used should be about the size of a grain of rice. Once your child reaches age 3, this increases to the size of a pea.

Brush gently on the inside and outside of each tooth, and brush your baby’s tongue as well. There is no need for baby to spit or rinse, since you are using such a small amount of toothpaste. It’s very hard to persuade a young infant to do this anyway. Once they reach age 1, they can begin trying to spit afterward.

There is no need to floss in the early days, since baby’s teeth will be fairly far apart. Once the tooth surfaces are touching each other though, it’s a good idea to start flossing.

What If Baby Doesn’t Want To Brush?

Some babies cooperate and others put up a fight every time you go to brush. Persuading an infant to do something that they don’t want to do can be challenging to say the least.

If you’re little one doesn’t want to brush, try being extra gentle. Babies have very sensitive gums, so brushing might be a little painful or uncomfortable. By taking things extra lightly, you might reduce any discomfort that your little one feels.

You might also sing a song while you’re brushing. This can be distracting for your little one which may mean they put up less of a fight. It will also help create a positive, fun association with brushing in general.

Some babies try to grab the toothbrush, and seem to want to take matters into their own hands. While they generally lack the manual dexterity required to do a thorough job, it’s a fine to let them try. This might make things more fun for them. Just make sure that you brush their teeth before or after they have a turn.

Cristin’s Note: Our son was always easy going when it came to brushing, even as an infant. Our daughter on the other hand was a whole different story. She would keep her mouth shut, turn her head away, and try to grab the toothbrush. Whenever, she did open up, she would immediately bite down on the toothbrush as soon as we put it in.

For months and months, this was a daily struggle. We would sing songs, talk in funny voices, and make jokes – anything to try and convince her to let us brush. Sometimes she would cooperate and other times she wouldn’t. We were persistent though, and as she got older, things got easier.

When Should You Take Your Baby To The Dentist?

dentist office

Babies should visit the dentist within six months of the arrival of their first tooth or by the time they turn 1, whichever comes first. It’s important to see a dentist, so they can take a look inside your little one’s mouth and confirm that everything is developing in the right way. They can also look for plaque or any other issues that might be cropping up.

Oral Hygiene Beyond Brushing

Once your little one begins teething, you will want to take extra care to keep their mouth clean. This is a good time to stop nursing your little one to sleep if this is something that you had done in the past. You don’t want milk sitting in your baby’s mouth since that can cause bacteria to grow. On a similar note, you should never put your little one to bed with a bottle of milk, formula, or juice.

There are a lot of foods that can cause tooth decay as well. These include fruit, dried fruit, juice, bread, crackers, pasta, and many more. You don’t have to avoid these foods entirely. But, you may want to serve them up with some water to help ensure that any food remnants are washed away. You can also wipe down your little one’s teeth after meals to help keep them clean.

Why Take Care Of Primary Teeth Anyway?

Some parents wonder if it’s really necessary to take care of their baby’s primary teeth at all. After all, baby teeth eventually fall out and get replaced by permanent ones.

Oral Hygiene Habits

One good reason to start taking care of your baby’s teeth is that it helps them to develop good oral hygiene habits. It’s much easier to continue a habit that was started at a young age than it is to start a new habit at and older age. So, get them started off right and set them up for a lifetime of good oral health.


If your little one’s primary teeth decay or fall out, it can have a negative impact on their overall health and speech development. Naturally, you want to avoid this if possible.

Placeholder For Permanent Teeth

Primary teeth serve as a placeholder for permanent teeth. If your baby loses a primary tooth too soon, it may cause the permanent tooth that is coming in behind it to come in crooked. This in turn may create the need for orthodontic work down the line which can be quite expensive.


If you don’t take care of your baby’s teeth, it can lead to gum diseases like gingivitis. Your much better off trying to prevent this rather than trying to deal with it after the fact.

Final Thoughts

Good dental hygiene can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it. After all, people with good oral health tend to be healthier overall. They also look better and feel better. Getting started early can lead to good habits down the road. So, it’s a good idea to set them up for a lifetime of flashing great smiles.

Howard is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice. When he isn't spending time with his wife, Kristin, or his two children, he can often be found running around on the tennis court.