Toddlers and Teeth

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

You can start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they start to come through. Use a baby toothbrush with a tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste.

Don’t worry if you don’t manage to brush much at first. The important thing is to get your baby used to brushing their teeth as part of their daily routine.

You can help by setting a good example and letting them see you brushing your own teeth.

Tooth brushing tips for babies

Use a tiny smear of toothpaste for babies and toddlers up to 3 years old, and a pea-sized amount for children aged 3 to 6 years.

Gradually start brushing your child’s teeth more thoroughly, covering all the surfaces of the teeth. Do it at least twice a day: just before bed and at another time that fits in with your routine.

Not all children like having their teeth brushed, so you may have to keep trying. Make it into a game, or brush your own teeth at the same time and then help your child finish their own.

The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee, with their head resting against your chest. With an older child, stand behind them and tilt their head backwards.

Brush the teeth in small circles, covering all the surfaces, and encourage your child to spit the toothpaste out afterwards. There’s no need to rinse with water, as this will wash away the fluoride.

Check to make sure your child gets the right amount of toothpaste and they’re not eating or licking toothpaste from the tube.

Carry on helping your child brush their teeth until you’re sure they can do it well enough themselves. This will normally be until they’re at least 7.

Taking your baby to the dentist

Take your child with you when you go for your own dental appointments so they get used to the idea.

You might like to try the following routine when brushing your child’s teeth:

Stand or sit behind your child so that your child feels secure. Brushing teeth in front of a mirror is good too, because it lets you see your child’s mouth.

Cup your child’s chin in your hands with their head resting against your body.

Angle the bristles of the toothbrush towards the gum. Move the brush in gentle circles to clean the outer and inner sides of the teeth and gums.

Brush back and forth on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Gently brush your child’s tongue.

Encourage your child to brush without swallowing. When your child starts using toothpaste, get them to spit it out. There’s no need to rinse after brushing because the fluoride toothpaste left behind protects your child’s teeth.

Brush in a different room like the kitchen to make it easier after meals.

Roar like a lion to help your child open their mouth wider.

If you’re using an electric toothbrush, avoid moving the brush in circles. Keep your hand still, and guide the brush across your child’s teeth and gums.

Tips to make brushing teeth easier.

Toddlers often don’t like brushing their teeth. But even a quick brush is better than nothing, because it helps your child learn that brushing teeth is a normal part of the daily routine.

Children are more likely to go along with cleaning teeth if it’s fun.

Here are some ideas:

Sing while you’re brushing. You could try ‘This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth, so early in the morning’.

Pretend the toothbrush is a train. You could try saying ‘Toot toot chugga chugga’ as you move the brush around your child’s teeth.

Let your child play with their favourite toy while you’re brushing.

I had a question sent in to my Toddler Roadmap Podcast recently on my ‘Don’t Stew – Ask Sue Q&A section about Toddlers and Teeth so I hope this will help if your little one is not enjoying brushing their teeth !

I think books are a great way to start big conversations with little people

‘To be a Star’ is an enchanting story for young children introducing the importance of early dental care.

The Tooth Fairy’s mission is to make new stars in the sky using shiny milk teeth and a little fairy magic. However, when Anil loses his first tooth the Tooth Fairy doesn’t want it because it’s not clean enough.

The story follows Anil’s quest to ensure that when he loses his next tooth it can become a new star in the sky. It covers everything from cleaning teeth to choosing tooth-friendly snacks, and is essential reading to encourage good dental care.

To be a Star

Key points

For most children, all 20 baby teeth arrive by 3 years of age.

Prevent tooth decay by brushing teeth twice a day and avoiding sugary foods and drinks.

Use low-fluoride toothpaste from 18 months of age.

Take your child to see the dentist at around 12 months of age or when their first tooth appears.

References: NHS, Raising Children funded by the Australian Government, reviewed by experts and non-commercial,

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