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How to Brush Baby Teeth: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents

Proper dental care begins long before a baby's first tooth appears. As parents, establishing good oral hygiene habits early on is crucial for your child's overall health and development. Brushing baby teeth not only prevents cavities but also sets the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

When it comes to how to brush baby teeth, this comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know. From identifying the right time to start brushing, to selecting age-appropriate tools and mastering the proper technique, we'll walk you through the steps. Additionally, you'll learn how often to brush baby teeth and helpful tips for transitioning to independent brushing as your little one grows. By following these expert recommendations, you can promote strong, cavity-free teeth from the very start.

When to Start Brushing

Establishing good oral hygiene habits for your baby should begin even before their first tooth appears. Here's a guide on when to start brushing your baby's teeth:

Cleaning Gums Before Teeth Erupt

  1. Start cleaning your baby's gums with a clean, damp washcloth or soft infant toothbrush shortly after birth.

  2. Gently wipe the gums, cheeks, and tongue after feedings to remove any residual milk or formula.

  3. This practice helps remove bacteria and gets your baby accustomed to the sensation of having their mouth cleaned.

Brushing that First Baby Tooth

As soon as your baby's first tooth erupts, typically around 6 months old, it's time to start brushing. Follow these steps:

  1. Use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush designed specifically for infants.

  2. In the beginning you can brush only with water, but when several teeth strike through it's time to introduce toothpaste. Use only a rice-sized smear until 3 years old.

  3. Gently brush the tooth and gums twice a day, in the morning and before bedtime.

Remember, consistency is key. Establishing a regular brushing routine from the very beginning will help your baby become accustomed to the process and set the foundation for a lifetime of good oral hygiene.

Choosing the Right Tools

Selecting the appropriate tools is crucial for effective and comfortable brushing of your baby's teeth. Here are some key considerations:

Toothbrush Selection

  1. Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head that fits comfortably in your baby's mouth. Both manual and electric toothbrushes can be effective.

  2. Look for toothbrushes with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval, as they meet safety and quality standards.

  3. Avoid silicone or finger brushes, as they are not as effective at removing plaque.

  4. Steer clear of U-shaped "retainer-style" brushes, as studies show they are not as efficient.

Some recommended toothbrush options include TePe Kids Toothbrush, Oral-B Baby Soft Bristle Toothbrush, Compact Super Brush, Jordan Step 1 Baby Toothbrush, and brush-baby BabySonic Infant and Toddler Electric Toothbrush.

Toothpaste Selection

Age Range

Toothpaste Amount

Fluoride Content

0-18 months

Use only water, no toothpaste


18 months - 3 years

Tiny smear (rice grain size)

Fluoride toothpaste (at least 1,000 ppm)

3-6 years

Pea-sized amount

Low-fluoride children's toothpaste

6+ years

Pea-sized amount

Standard fluoride toothpaste

Toothpaste with fluoride is recommended to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. For babies and toddlers who cannot reliably spit, use a rice grain amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day. For children who can spit, use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.

Recommended toothpaste options include Hello Dragon Dazzle Blue Raspberry, Tanner's Tasty Paste Cha Cha Chocolate, Colgate My First Baby and Toddler Toothpaste, and Dr. Brown's Tooth and Gum Wipes.

Brushing Technique

Establishing proper brushing techniques from an early age is crucial for maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing dental issues. Here are some key points to keep in mind when brushing your baby's teeth:

Gentle Circular Motions

  1. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for infants and gently brush in small circular motions.

  2. Brush all surfaces of the teeth, including the front, back, and chewing surfaces, as well as along the gum line.

  3. Spend approximately two minutes brushing, ensuring thorough coverage of all tooth surfaces.

Post-Brushing Routine

  1. After brushing, encourage your child to spit out any excess toothpaste, but do not rinse with water.

  2. Leaving a small amount of toothpaste in the mouth helps the fluoride continue protecting the teeth.

  3. Rinsing immediately after brushing can wash away the beneficial effects of the fluoride.

Remember, consistency is key when it comes to establishing good brushing habits. Make brushing a fun and positive experience for your child by incorporating songs, stories, or letting them hold their own toothbrush while you brush their teeth.

Introducing Toothbrushing

Making toothbrushing a fun and engaging experience for your baby is key to establishing good oral hygiene habits early on. Here are some tips to help introduce toothbrushing in a positive way:

1. Make It a Game

Turn brushing into a playful activity by taking turns, involving your child's favorite toy, or playing music. Sing a song to make it more engaging for infants and toddlers. This helps create a positive association with brushing.

2. Let Them Explore

Allow your toddler to hold and explore their toothbrush before you start brushing. Let them "brush" a toy or their own teeth first. This helps them feel more in control and comfortable with the process.

3. Use the "Knee-to-Knee" Technique

If your baby resists having their teeth brushed, try the "knee-to-knee" technique. Sit facing another adult, with your knees touching, and have the other person hold and comfort your baby while you gently brush their teeth. This can help keep them calm and secure.

Remember, establishing good oral hygiene habits from an early age is crucial for your child's overall health and development. By making toothbrushing a fun and positive experience, you'll set the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Transitioning to Independent Brushing

As your child grows older, it's important to encourage their participation in brushing and gradually transition them towards independent brushing. Here's how you can approach this process:

Encouraging Participation

  1. Around age 2-3, start involving your child in the brushing routine. Let them hold the toothbrush and guide their hand to brush their own teeth.

  2. Make it a fun activity by singing songs, telling stories, or using a toothbrushing app to keep them engaged.

  3. Praise and encourage their efforts, even if they don't do a perfect job. This will build their confidence and motivation.

Supervision and Assistance

While your child may show interest in brushing independently, it's crucial to continue supervising and assisting them until they can do it effectively, usually around age 7-8.

Age Range

Supervision and Assistance

2-3 years

Involve child in brushing, but provide full assistance

4-6 years

Allow child to brush first, then assist by re-brushing thoroughly

7-8 years

Supervise and provide guidance, but let child take the lead

Dental Check-ups

Remember to schedule your child's first dental check-up by age 1 or when that first tooth pops up. Regular visits to the pediatric dentist will not only monitor their oral health but also reinforce the importance of good brushing habits.


Establishing good oral hygiene habits for your baby from an early age is essential for their overall health and development. By following the guidance provided in this article, you can ensure proper dental care for your little one, promoting strong, cavity-free teeth and setting the foundation for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

If you're looking for professional guidance on your child's oral health, consider Hello Kids Dentistry in Bothell, WA, where experienced pediatric dentists are dedicated to addressing children's dental needs. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram or call 425-659-1200 to schedule an appointment.


1. When is the appropriate time to start brushing a baby's teeth?

Parents should begin to care for their baby's gums from 3-6 months old, which helps alleviate teething pain and supports tooth emergence. Once the baby's teeth start to appear, they should be brushed twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.

2. What are some options for dealing with baby teeth after they fall out?

Parents have a few choices when it comes to handling shed baby teeth. They can simply discard them, or keep them as keepsakes in special boxes, craft them into jewelry, or save them for educational purposes such as future science projects.

3. Until what age should parents help their children brush their teeth?

Parents are advised to assist their children in brushing their teeth until they are capable of doing it effectively on their own, typically around the age of eight. It's important to ensure that teeth brushing occurs twice daily, once in the morning and once at night before bedtime.


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