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When to Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth : A Guide to Milestones and Oral Care

Babies, every since they are born, go through exciting milestones, which every parent looks forward to. Some of the milestones in the first year of the baby’s life are, first smile, first time crawling, first word, first solid food, and then the sprouting of the first tooth of your baby, which is the cutest thing ever.

Celebrating milestones of your child is very exciting along with a tinge of sadness too that your baby is growing. Growing of their first baby tooth or teeth is a milestone, which many know of; however, first time brushing your baby’s teeth is also a milestone, which many fail to celebrate.

Those little teeth which are bursting through the gumline need to be taken care of properly. In this article we will talk about when is the right time to start brushing your baby’s teeth.

Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth For The First Time and At The Right Time

One might think to wait before starting to brush the teeth of your little one until they get their complete set of teeth. However, it is important to care for baby’s teeth, even if they are one or two, to develop good dental hygiene practices early on in life. It is also advisable to start caring for the baby’s gums after their birth.

Brushing the Gums at 0 Months and Above

The first tooth of your baby can erupt anywhere between the months of 4 to 12. Before the teeth have appeared, you can start with the dental care by caring for the gums. Take a soft wet cloth and gently wipe the gums of your baby to remove any residual milk film and bacteria. Doing this will prevent damage to the teeth of your baby, as they start to come and your baby will also get used to having their mouth cleaned.

After the Appearance of the Baby’s First Tooth

As the tooth or teeth start to appear above the gumline, you should brush them for about 2 minutes twice in a day. A visit to the pediatric dentist should also be scheduled following the appearance of the first tooth or before the child’s first birthday, whichever happens first. Use a child-sized brush with really soft bristles for brushing your baby’s teeth.

Ages 1 Year to One-And-Half Year

As the baby continues to have more teeth, it becomes increasingly important to instill good oral hygiene habits in your child. You have to start brushing your baby’s teeth and also make them hold the brush and teach them how to brush their own teeth and make it a habit of doing it two times a day. Visiting a pediatric dentist is also highly recommended and is actually mandatory.

What is the Correct Method for Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?

How you brush your baby’s teeth depends on the age of your baby and the number of teeth they have.

Brushing Before the Appearance of the Teeth

Even if your baby doesn’t have teeth, you can still brush the gums of your baby by wiping them gently with a damp and soft washcloth or with finger brush and little water. It is also important to wipe the region under the lip to remove any bacteria present and to prevent accumulation of bacteria.

Brushing after Eruption of Teeth, But Before the Child Can Spit

Take a damp brush and gently brush in circular motions on the front, top and back, surfaces of all the present teeth and also the gum line. If the child is under three years of age, then you can also use a tiny bit of toothpaste about the size of a rice grain to brush their teeth.

If your child cannot spit on its own, then gently tilt their mouth downwards to enable the toothpaste to pass out of the mouth onto the skin or washcloth or a cup. Keep on teaching and encouraging your child to try spitting out the toothpaste as best as they can.

Can Fluoride Toothpaste Be Used For Brushing the Baby’s Teeth?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Fluoride toothpaste as safe and effective to be used even in young children.(2) However, it is important to use the amount as directed by the physician, as more than the required amount can cause negative effects, such as an upset stomach if the child consumes the toothpaste. In case of this occurring, then the National Capital Poison Center recommends consuming dairy, which binds with the fluoride present in the stomach and reduces its negative effects.(3)

Always supervise your child when they are brushing their teeth and keep the toothpaste out of reach of young children, lest they should eat it thinking it of some sort of candy.

What are the Fluoride Recommendations for Children Aged 0 To 3 Years?

Excessive fluoride consumption over a period of time causes damage to the enamel of the tooth.(4) So, you should use fluoride toothpaste only after the baby had developed a tooth.

The AAP recommends children below the age of three to use a dot of fluoride toothpaste for brushing their teeth.(5) As the child grows and is able to spit out the entire toothpaste, then slightly more toothpaste can be used.

Fluoride varnish can also be applied at well-baby visits or at your baby’s dentist. It is important to regularly visit pediatric dentist for good dental hygiene of your child.

The dentist checks your baby’s teeth and makes sure that they are in good condition and are developing properly. If the child drinks non-fluoridated bottled water or drinks only well water, then fluoride supplements can also be recommended as per the American Dental Association.(6)

Fluoride Recommendations for Children Aged 3 To 6 Years Old

The American Dental Association recommends pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children between the ages of 3 to 6. Make sure your child spits out the toothpaste as much as possible.(5)

What to Do When Your Baby Refuses To Let You Brush Their Teeth?

Some of the tricks which will help you in brushing your baby’s teeth; especially when they are throwing tantrums are:(5)

  • Keep a special song when brushing your baby’s teeth and sing while brushing. This song can be in tune of any popular nursery rhyme.
  • You can also use a motorized toothbrush or a light-up toothbrush so the baby can enjoy the brushing process.
  • You can also use a visual timer to allow your baby to see how rapidly the seconds are flying by till you complete your brushing.
  • Allow your kid to hold the toothbrush and let them brush their teeth on their own, which they will enjoy and also get used to brushing their teeth.

How to Choose a Toothbrush for Your Baby?

Choosing the right kind of brush depends on your baby’s age and the number of teeth they have. If your baby has not had teeth yet, then you can use a washcloth to clean their gums to prevent any bacteria and also to keep the gums clean from any milk coating. As the teeth begin to develop, you can use a finger brush or teether-style brush or brushes with nubs. These kinds of brushes will teach your baby to control the brush and practice brushing movement on their baby teeth!

Additionally these brushes come in different shapes, such as fruits shaped, shaped like an animal in vibrant colors, which holds their attention and also makes brushing fun for them! Once proper teeth have developed, then it is time for your baby to use a toothbrush with extra soft bristles and the tiniest amount of toothpaste. Brushes for children have a smaller sized head, which allows easy reaching in the crevices and nooks of your baby’s tiny mouth.

Any toothbrush made for children is available in different patterns and colors, which make them very attractive for your child. Some have bigger handles so that it is easier for your baby to hold it.


You do not have to wait till your baby has complete set of teeth. You can develop the habit of brushing in your baby even before their teeth have made appearance. It takes time, patience and practice for you and your baby to get the hang of brushing and spitting out the toothpaste and also to get into the whole routine of brushing twice a day. Once your child can brush their teeth independently, then you can sit back and relax assured that you have taught well and your child will grow up to have a healthy set of pearly whites!


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 23, 2023

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