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Parent guide update: Looking after your baby’s teeth

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

If you feel unsure about how or when to brush your baby’s teeth, you are not alone!

Parents often ask our practitioners: when do you start brushing baby teeth? How do you brush baby teeth? What do you do if your child hates having their teeth brushed?

We’re here to help answer these questions!

Parents should begin cleaning their baby’s mouth earlier than most people realize. It’s recommended that a routine is formed early on, cleaning your baby’s gums before their teeth come in daily, using a damp washcloth or infant toothbrush.

You can then 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.

Brushing a young child’s teeth isn’t always easy, but it is essential to establish, and maintain, a good oral healthcare routine to keep your little one’s mouth healthy!

Here are some tips for when you begin brushing:

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

  • Slowly begin 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 daily routine.

  • The easiest way to brush a baby's teeth is to sit them on your knee, with their head resting against your chest. When they’re older, stand behind them and tilt their head backwards.

  • Brush the teeth in small circles and encourage your child to spit the toothpaste out afterwards (no need to rinse with water - this will wash away the fluoride).

  • Carry on helping your child brush their teeth until you're sure they can do it well themselves – normally around 7 years old.

  • Supervise their brushing to make sure your little one gets the right amount of toothpaste and that they're not eating toothpaste from the tube.

Not all children like having their teeth brushed, you might find they refuse or make it difficult to brush their teeth.

To help, here are some tips and ideas:

Get them involved

The key is to make teeth brushing into a positive activity so that your little one associates it in a positive way!

Let them choose a toothbrush they like and allow them to have a go at brushing themselves, (even if you have to correct them after).

Giving them some control over toothbrush time is a great way to make them excited about oral health.

Practice on a toy

Get your little one to brush their toy's teeth, you can then brush theirs. You could try using silly voices to add a little more fun.

Children learn by playing and copying. By involving their toys in toothbrush time, you're giving them a safe and fun way to get them more comfortable.

Use music

Songs can make brushing teeth more enjoyable. Choose a song your little one knows (or a toothbrushing song) and sing along.

Can they keep their mouth open as wide as possible whilst trying to sing along? If that doesn't work, then try to have them roar like a lion and do the brushing then.

Singing for a couple of minutes will also help your child understand how long they need to brush for!

Funny faces

Making funny faces together in the mirror as you help brush your little one’s teeth is an easy way to keep your little one distracted.

Some faces might require big smiles or wide-open mouths which will help you brush their teeth whilst they have fun!

Finally, it is important that your little one sees a dentist. You should book your first appointment as soon as the first tooth appears. Your dentist will then advise how often you’ll need to visit them.

You can take your child with you when you go for your own dental appointment, so they can get used to the idea.

NHS dental treatment for children is free.

To find a dentist, you can use the NHS services search, ask at your local clinic, or contact the NHS directly on 0300 311223 or email

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