Before I tell you when to start brushing baby teeth, here’s the thing: Many people don’t find the need to brush their baby’s teeth as they think they are eventually going to get replaced. But healthy teeth and gums are equally important in children as they are in adults.

Fact: While adults have 32 teeth, children only have 20 teeth, which are eventually replaced by their successors in a due amount of time. However, not all baby teeth have permanent successors. There are cases when a baby tooth may be in a person’s mouth for life and such teeth are called retained deciduous teeth.

Remember, taking care of your child’s teeth is as important as watering your plants. Decayed or missing baby teeth can also interfere with the nutrition of your baby, which will ultimately take a toll on their health.

Most of us are confused as to when and how to actually start brushing the baby’s teeth. To clear your questions, I have written a detailed article about brushing your child’s teeth, the do’s and the don’ts. So, stick till the end to ensure that you are doing things the right way.

When to Start Brushing Baby Teeth?

The right time to start brushing a baby’s teeth is when he or she is 6-7 months of age. This is also the time when the first tooth appears in the oral cavity.

Now that you know when to start brushing baby teeth, let’s quickly jump into learning the right way to brush your little one’s teeth.

The Right Way to Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

There are a variety of oral hygiene products available in the market for your baby’s use. But how to choose the ideal one according to his or her age is still a question for many.

Therefore, in this article I have categorised the brushing methods for children according to their age so it becomes easy for you, as a parent, to take care of your child’s milky whites.

1. From 0 - 6 months old

This is the stage when we see no teeth in the oral cavity. However, it is important to clean their gums at this time.

  • Start cleaning your baby’s mouth during the first few days after birth by wiping the gums with a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth—preferably with cold water, as it soothes teething pain.
  • Paediatric dentists recommend cleaning baby’s gums after feedings. This helps prevent bacterial growth and promotes good oral health long before the baby’s first teeth start to appear.
  • A silicone or rubber finger brush proves useful for cleaning and massaging the gums.

2. From 6 months - 3 years old

Your baby’s first teeth may start appearing during 6-7 months of age and that’s when you start brushing your child’s teeth.

  • Use a soft baby toothbrush or your finger to clean the teeth that have started appearing in the mouth. Your kid’s toothbrush should be extremely soft with not more than 3 rows of bristles on them.
  • By the time your child is 3 years old, all the 20 teeth must have taken their place in the oral cavity.
  • When your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.
  • Teach your child to spit while brushing.
  • Use rice grain-sized fluoride toothpaste, especially that’s made for children strictly in the presence of adult supervision is advocated.
  • Brushing twice daily is recommended with a soft toothbrush.

3. From 3 - 6 years old

During this period, it is imperative to maintain proper oral hygiene to sustain the milk teeth for a longer time.

  • Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste that’s made for children. Brush the teeth thoroughly twice a day with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for kids.
  • Supervise children’s brushing and remind them not to swallow the toothpaste.

4. Above 6 years old

After 6 years, the current teeth start exfoliating, and new ones start erupting. This becomes a period of mixed dentition.

  • Some teeth can become loose and may bleed. Educate your child regarding the transition. Don’t be in a hurry to pull out the loose teeth. They may exfoliate on their own.
  • Brushing the teeth twice daily (with a good fluoride toothpaste) for 2 minutes is mandatory. The fluoride content should not be more than 1350-1500ppm.
  • Assist your child in brushing until he or she is not comfortable in brushing on their own.
  • Even if your kid starts brushing on his or her own, some supervision may be necessary.

How to Get Your Child to Brush Easily?

Let’s face the truth: kids are difficult to deal with. But the most challenging part lies in making them brush their teeth. It’s an everyday normal scenario when we see parents running behind their children with a toothbrush. Amidst all this, making them brush their teeth properly is quite a task.

So here are some tips to not just make it easy for you but also to incorporate healthy brushing habits in your kids right from a young age.

how to brush baby teeth

1. Don’t force your kid to get things done. Make it a learning experience

  • Teach brushing in such a way that it becomes fun for your kid. Initially, he or she will not do it correctly but that’s okay.
  • Don’t get frustrated and yell at your kid. Be patient while teaching because the idea is to get him or her to brush correctly at the right time, which will eventually happen at his or her own speed.
  • Introduce fun brushing games which can catch your child’s interest.

2. Become a role model for them

  • Children often try to imitate what they see. As a parent, you too should start brushing twice daily in front of them so that they understand the importance of brushing.
  • Make it look as if you enjoy brushing. Engage them in brushing alongside you.

3. Keep it positive

  • Reward your child after brushing. Compliment him or her for brushing correctly.
  • Children find this encouraging and it instills a positive attitude in them. Due to this they look forward to brushing.

4. Play a nice song

  • Play a 2-minute song for your kid, most likely his or her favourite, while they brush for 2 whole minutes.
  • They may actually start loving brushing by this.

5. Let them play

  • Allow your kid to play with his or her toothbrush if he or she enjoys playing with it.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to teach them proper techniques. They will learn proper methods at their own pace. The point is to make them brush on their own eventually.

6. Encourage with their favourites

  • Your child may love certain characters or colours, which may interest him or her to brush. Give them a toothbrush of their favourite character or in their favourite colour.
  • Try getting them toothpastes in their favourite flavours. This might encourage him or her to brush frequently.
  • Allow your kid to choose his or her own toothbrush. This way he or she becomes more enthusiastic about brushing and it further creates a sense of ownership, keeping him or her excited about brushing always.

7. Make up a story

  • Make up a fiction story where they are the superheroes and are fighting against the bad cavities by brushing teeth.

8. Sticker charts or reward charts

  • This is another interesting way to track not just brushing but also other activities of your kid.
  • Give them sticker charts, which will act as a reminder for them to brush properly on time.

Brushing Your Kid’s Teeth: The Techniques to Teach

More than the type of toothbrush and toothpaste, brushing technique matters a lot in getting rid of plaque and cavity-causing germs effectively.

By following a systematic approach, you can be sure that all the areas of the mouth are cleaned. The methods mentioned below are easy to perform and can be adopted for regular oral hygiene measures too.  I would like to keep things simplified. Hence, I am penning down 2 easy techniques that can be incorporated while brushing your kid’s teeth.

1. Horizontal scrub technique

Keep the brush horizontally on the outer and inner surfaces. Move it back and forth in a scrubbing motion.

Kids will find this technique easy to employ, as it is naturally adopted by them. In fact, research has shown that this method removes as much or more plaque than the other techniques, regardless of how old the child is and whether the brushing is performed by the parent or the child.

2. Fones or Circular Scrub Method

Keep the brush against a set of teeth and move it in a circular motion 4-5 times for each set of teeth.

This technique is quite easy to master and provides good gums stimulation as well. It is ideal for young children and the ones who lack manual dexterity.

The Dos & Don’ts of Brushing your Baby’s Teeth

The Dos:

  • Tooth brushing should be advocated right from the appearance of the first tooth.
  • The American Academy of Pediatric Dentists (AAPD) recommends parents to take their children to visit a dentist by their first birthday. But some parents wait until their kids become much older.
  • Schedule an early visit to the dentist and learn about the shedding sequence of the milk teeth.
  • Supervise your child’s brushing at all times. They might need a reminder for brushing regularly.
  • Keep a check that your kid doesn’t swallow the toothpaste. Swallowing a little quantity is okay but it shouldn’t be frequent.
  • Snack time should be kept in between the meals. This prevents unnecessary sugar exposure on the tooth surface. Include fibrous fruits and vegetables in their diet because this helps in the development of the teeth.

The Don’ts

  • Do not initiate forceful brushing habits upon your kid. He or she may willingly brush the teeth if you make things seem interesting.
  • Do not be in a hurry to introduce a toothbrush. The gums in early stages are soft and need gentle care. Either use a cloth or an ultra-soft baby toothbrush.
  • Do not let your kids have sweets or juices before bedtime. Even if they do, make sure that they brush their teeth and sleep.
  • Do not allow your child to go to sleep while weaning or with a bottle filled with milk. Ensure that their mouth is cleaned with a moistened cotton cloth before sleeping. This prevents early decay of the teeth.
  • Do not be in a hurry to pull out a loose tooth. It will be replaced in time. Premature loss of tooth may lead to premature eruption of its successors and may create crowding of the permanent teeth in future.
  • Do not hesitate to visit the dentist at the first sign of tooth decay.

Other Important FAQs

1. What type of brush should you use for your baby’s teeth?

In the early stages of infancy, use only moist cloth or your finger to brush. After the first tooth appears, you can use an ultra-soft baby toothbrush. However, after 3 years you can upgrade to a kid’s toothbrush.

2. What toothpaste should you use for your baby’s teeth?

Preferably, a kids toothpaste, as it has restricted amounts of fluoride. But it’s the quantity that matters. For children below 3 years, a rice grain size of toothpaste should be given whereas for above 3 year olds, a pea-sized quantity of toothpaste is recommended.

3. Can you use fluoride toothpaste for cleaning baby’s teeth?

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using fluoride toothpaste right from the appearance of the first tooth. But the quantity should not exceed 1500 ppm.

4. When should be the first visit to the dentist?

The first visit to the dentist should be scheduled ideally between 6 months and 1 year. But in special cases, like natal/neonatal teeth or cleft lip/palate, visits can be scheduled earlier too. Irrespective of the first visit, it is mandatory to visit the dentist regularly in order to keep a check on oral health.

Conclusion

Good oral hygiene habits incorporated in childhood sets up good hygiene habits for life. Good oral health ensures better general health, especially in the laters years. Milk teeth may be replaced over time but they are equally important to retain the space in the oral cavity for their permanent successors.

Hope you are now clear as to when to start brushing baby teeth and all the queries associated with maintaining proper oral hygiene for your kid. So start taking good care of your child’s teeth right away if you want to see a lifetime of healthy smiles on their pretty face.

About the Author

Dr. Rutuja Sankhe

Dr. Rutuja Sankhe is a Periodontist & Implantologist. She completed her masters in 2019. She is a Dental Surgeon by profession and is currently working in Mumbai as a consultant. She has an excellent knack for writing and has a tremendous interest in research work.

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