Development Physical & Emotional

When (And How) To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

Seeing your baby’s first tooth is an exciting milestone for all parents.

If you’re like many parents, it’s around this time that you start thinking about your baby’s oral hygiene and brushing their mouth, teeth and gums.

But you may be surprised to learn that according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, you should clean your baby’s mouth from a few days after birth, and not when that first tooth emerges.

Once your baby has their first tooth, it’s time to start brushing twice a day using a toothbrush and toothpaste, but before any teeth arrive, you should still gently clean their gums every single day.

But can you use fluoride toothpaste, and how much should you use?

And what can you do if your baby resists having their teeth cleaned?

Let’s take a look.

When Should You Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?


In rare cases, some newborns are born with teeth, but most of the time you don’t need to worry about brushing your newborn’s teeth because they won’t have any.

However, what many parents don’t realize is that it is still important to clean the gums of a newborn, preferably after their last feed of the day.

First Tooth Onwards

Once your baby has their first tooth (or more precisely as soon as a tooth appears above the gumline), you can start brushing their teeth for 2 minutes, twice daily.

Ideally, one of those times should be after their last feed of the night, which will prevent any milk or little bits of veggies or meat from sitting in their mouth or teeth for many hours during the night.

Around this time you may also want to plan their first trip to a dentist.

Should I Brush My Baby’s Gums?

Yes, even before your baby has any teeth there is still something you should do to remove bacteria in their mouths.

The advice from the American Dental Association is to clean your baby’s gums and the front of their tongue on a daily basis from a few days after birth onwards.

To do this you should use a clean, damp cloth or a finger brush to wipe your baby’s gums and tongue.

How To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

We’ve covered how to brush your baby’s gums, so let’s now move on to how to brush your child’s teeth from the moment that first tooth emerges onwards.

Here are 5 simple steps on how to brush your baby’s teeth, and these steps apply whether your baby is 6 months old, 1 year old or a fully-fledged toddler:

  1. Use a child-sized toothbrush with soft bristles.
  2. Apply a very small amount of toothpaste – the size of a grain of rice for children under 3 (more on this below).
  3. Use gentle circular motions for approx. 2 minutes.
  4. Encourage your baby or toddler to spit out when they understand what you mean.
  5. Your baby may want to clean their own teeth, but chances are they won’t be able to do a thorough job. In this case, let them finish, then do some more brushing yourself.

How Often To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

If you’re wondering how frequently to clean your baby’s teeth then, fortunately, the answer is easy, because it mirrors what most adults do

Experts recommend you clean a child’s teeth twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

Can Babies Use Fluoride Toothpaste?

The recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) is that it’s safe to use fluoride toothpaste as soon as your baby’s first tooth comes through.

One thing to be aware of is to use the recommended amount, which can seem very small compared to the amount adults use.

For a baby or toddler, you should use a smear of toothpaste (the size of a grain of rice), while for a 3-year-old you should use a a pea-sized amount.

You might also be concerned about your little one swallowing some toothpaste, but this should not be a cause for concern as the toothpaste is developed with this in mind, and once your baby is 1-2 years old they can be taught how to spit out after brushing.

Tips If Your Baby Hates Having Their Teeth Cleaned

Are you finding it difficult to get your child to brush their teeth?

Try these 7 hacks to break through any stubborn resistance:

1. Brush Your Teeth

Most babies love copying mom, dad or other adults, so cleaning your teeth at the same time might help encourage your little one to emulate you.

2. Make It Fun

If brushing their teeth becomes a stressful situation then your child is likely to put up more resistance.

Try singing a song from their favorite Disney movie or having some other distraction that may take your baby’s mind off the job at hand.

3. Double Up With Your Partner

As alluded to above, distraction can be effective in your bid to brush your baby’s teeth.

So if two adults are around, one can try comforting or distracting your baby, while the other sneakily cleans their teeth.

4. Let Your Baby Choose The Brush

Your child is more likely to want to clean their teeth if they like their toothbrush.

So consider letting them choose their own Disney or superhero toothbrush next time you’re out shopping with them.

5. Let Them Explore & Play

If you’ve only just started cleaning your baby’s teeth then they may be very intrigued and curious about the whole process.

In this case, you should let them hold and play with the toothbrush to satisfy their curiosity, and with any luck, they may put it in their mouth, especially if they see you doing the same with your toothbrush (see above).

6. Softly Does It

Your baby’s gums will be sensitive at the best of times, and especially when teething.

So be conscious of not applying too much pressure, which may make the whole experience painful for your little one.

If you think this might be the case then try and hold the brush with only a very light grip pressure, which should result in a more gentle action.

7. Consistent Routine

Having a consistent routine is good for babies because it helps them understand what to expect and what’s coming next.

So aim to brush their teeth at the same time each night, for example just before you put them in their sleep sack or swaddle and put them down in their dark, cozy bedroom.

Why Is It Important To Brush Baby Teeth?

As your baby’s teeth are temporary and will eventually be replaced by permanent ones, you might be wondering why you should bother cleaning them in the first place.

There are several important reasons for brushing your baby’s teeth, including:

  • It helps develop good oral hygiene from an early age, which will hopefully last a lifetime.
  • If your baby’s teeth are neglected they can develop bacteria and infections which move on to their permanent teeth.
  • Bacteria from teeth can be passed on to your children in your household.
  • Decay in your baby’s teeth can get in the way of speech development.

Related: Navigating Your Child’s Early Development

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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