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When and How to Start Brushing Your Child’s Teeth

Brushing your child’s teeth is a critical part of maintaining their health during developmental stages. There’s a common belief that baby teeth “don’t matter,” since they are just going to fall out anyway. Not true. Taking care of your child’s baby teeth can ensure that their adult teeth develop and erupt normally, and sets your child on a path of good oral health for their entire life. Here are a few ways to take care of your children’s teeth as they age.

Infants (pre-teeth)

Believe it or not, there are things you can – and should – do to take care of your baby’s mouth even before they have teeth. Dentists recommend using a soft (clean) washcloth or a piece of (sterile) gauze, lightly moist, to rub the baby’s gums. This can wipe away bacteria that can affect teeth as they erupt.

Toddlers (first teeth)

You want to start brushing your toddler’s teeth as soon as they appear. It is important to use a brush with very soft bristles and a small brush head. Some experts say only to brush with water, but a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste is ok, too. This helps to strengthen developing teeth as soon as they appear. Ideally, brushing your toddler’s teeth should be the last thing you do before bedtime. And remember, you should brush their teeth in the morning, just as you would your own.

As your children age and develop more baby teeth, it becomes increasingly important to brush every day, making sure to reach all surfaces of all teeth. Do this yourself, as you will have the most dexterity, but give your child a chance to hold the toothbrush too. This helps them get used to the idea of brushing their own teeth and can help to make it feel like a “game” or something they look forward to. 

Generally speaking, you need to brush your child’s teeth for several years until they can do it reasonably well on their own. Even then, you need to supervise them closely to make sure the job is getting done. And it is never too early to incorporate flossing into their routine. By doing all of this, you are helping your child develop habits that will keep their smile glowing for life.