Brushing Basics: What You Need to Know About Brushing Baby Teeth

Knowing when to start brushing baby’s teeth can be a tough one. Read The Bump’s guide to learn when and how to brush baby teeth.
save article
profile picture of Kristina Cappetta
Updated September 13, 2017
little girls learning to brush their teeth
Image: Getty Images

We’ve always been told to brush our teeth three times a day. It’s one of those things that’s a no-brainer. But, when you’re talking about babies and their tiny teeth, it can get a little fuzzy. Since babies can’t do it on their own, you need to know the ABC’s of brushing in order to get baby crawling down the right path of dental hygiene. From when to start brushing baby’s teeth to all of the how-to’s and tips, brushing baby teeth is anything but child’s play.

When to Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth

Since all babies start getting their teeth at different times, there is no one standard time to get brushing. You can start brushing baby teeth as soon as the first tooth pokes through. According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay can happen as soon as the first baby tooth comes in, so it’s important to have that baby toothbrush in hand and ready to clean!

When Do Babies Start Growing Teeth?

As you wait for that first baby tooth to come in to start brushing, it’s only natural to want to ask when do babies start growing teeth? Again, babies like to keep us on our toes! Some babies start teething as early as 3 months. For others, baby teeth don’t start showing up until after they blow out their first birthday candle. But on average, babies start showing those pearly whites at 6 months old. So regardless of age, if you see teeth poking through your little one’s gums, that’s when to start brushing baby teeth.

How to Brush Baby Teeth

As with anything you do for baby, being gentle is priority No. 1. You don’t think twice about brushing your teeth, but put yourself in baby’s booties. Mommy or Daddy is coming toward their mouth with some weird thing that has a little minty goop on it. It can be frightening for baby, but it doesn’t have to be if you take your time and go slow.

Related Video
  1. Teeny-Tiny Toothpaste Amount. Start by putting the smallest amount of toothpaste on a baby toothbrush. We’re talking the size of one grain of rice. Yep, just one grain. You can pick up a special baby toothbrush at any pharmacy or store, and also be sure the toothpaste is approved by the American Dental Association and is age appropriate
  2. Gentle Is Key. Once you have the toothbrush ready, gently approach baby’s mouth and brush the inside and outside of each tooth. Move the toothbrush in a gentle circular motion as well as using back and forth strokes. Go slowly. Do this twice a day, after breakfast and before bed.
  3. Don’t Forget the Tongue. While you’re tackling the teeth, try brushing baby’s tongue too. This will help loosen bacteria and avoid bad breath. No one wants stinky breath in the sandbox!

Tips for Brushing Baby Teeth

Besides the how-to and knowing when to start brushing baby’s teeth, there are some little tricks and tips that can make the process easier.

  • Make It Fun. Yes, brushing baby teeth can be fun. Start by choosing a baby toothbrush with a character your little one likes. Seeing this familiar face may ease any apprehension going on inside baby’s head.
  • Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Put baby in front of a mirror and he is sure to be entertained. When you’re brushing baby’s teeth make sure to have a mirror out too. Baby will not only see himself and hopefully love it, but will also begin to see how this whole toothbrushing thing is done.
  • Sing Songs. Kids love music. Why not break out some tooth tunes to jam to with baby while brushing? There are several songs you can sing that will have baby forgetting that you’re even brushing his teeth.
  • Make It a Family Affair. Babies are great at copying actions. While baby can’t brush his her teeth alone, seeing you do the same to your mouth may help to calm any fears.
  • Toothbrush Patrol. Keep an eye on baby’s toothbrush. Replace it every three to four months or even sooner if you notice it’s getting worn.

When to Start Brushing Baby Gums

While the spotlight may be on baby’s teeth, you can’t forget the gums. Knowing when to start brushing baby gums is just as important as knowing when to start brushing baby’s teeth. You should start cleaning baby gums even before that first tooth pokes through.

It’s never too early to start, especially when you take into consideration statistics that show tooth decay is the most common childhood disease. By starting early with brushing baby’s gums, you are doing your part to avoid future dental problems.

  1. Wipe Gums. After each feeding, take a warm, wet washcloth and wrap it around your finger. Cradle baby in one arm on a comfy chair or couch. Use the other arm to softly wipe off baby’s gums, getting off any excess food. You can do the same thing with a piece of gauze if that works better for you. As with brushing baby teeth, you need to be gentle.
  2. Toothpaste Is Not Necessary. You don’t need to use toothpaste to clean baby’s gums. Save this for when it’s time to start brushing baby’s teeth.
  3. Don’t Forget the Tongue. Try to wipe down your baby’s tongue too. If you can get in there, you’ll also want to gently wipe the inside of the cheeks. These are all places where bacteria can grow.

Knowing when to start brushing baby’s teeth is only the beginning. After you start brushing baby’s teeth, you won’t be off the hook for a while. It’s recommended you brush baby’s teeth until about age 6. Even at that point you should still supervise to make sure they are hitting all the spots, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure good dental hygiene for your kids!

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

save article

Next on Your Reading List

Article removed.
Article removed.
Name added. View Your List