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When to start brushing baby teeth

Published on Feb 23, 2022. By Amy Roach
mom and baby brushing their teeth

When your baby’s first teeth start coming in, it’s so exciting! The first teeth are a great sign of growth and development for your little one. But almost as soon as they come in, the questions start coming in, too: When to start brushing baby teeth? How to brush a baby’s teeth? What if my child hates brushing their teeth? How to brush a toddler's teeth? You get the picture.

If you feel unsure about how and when to brush your baby’s teeth, you are not alone! Pediatric dentists get these kinds of questions all the time. That’s why we’ve rounded up some great information to help you understand when and how to start brushing baby teeth.

In this article:

  • Background on baby teeth
  • When to start brushing baby teeth?
  • How to brush a baby’s teeth?
  • How to brush a toddler’s teeth?

Background on baby teeth

A significant milestone in development, baby teeth are basically temporary placeholders for your baby’s permanent set of teeth. Every baby is different—and genetics play a large role in the timeline of tooth eruption—but most start the teething process as early as four to seven months. It is not uncommon, however for a first tooth to come in as late as nine months or even one year. By the time your baby turns three years old, they should have 20 teeth in their mouth. 

While brushing temporary baby teeth may seem like an unnecessary struggle, dentists say it is essential to take good care of your baby’s teeth for the following reasons:

  • Establishing good dental habits early on helps ensure a lifetime of dental health.
  • Decayed baby teeth can interfere with nutrition and speech development. 
  • Not all baby teeth are replaced by permanent teeth; there are cases when a baby tooth may be in a person’s mouth for life.

When to start brushing baby teeth?

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), as soon as baby’s first tooth erupts, it is time to begin brushing. It may seem early to begin a process that many babies will not enjoy, but dentists explain that plaque can start building up on the surface of a tooth as soon as it emerges. In fact, AAPD even recommends brushing your infant’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or a cloth and water even before their teeth poke through. Establishing a good oral routine early on is a crucial factor in promoting good hygiene for your child.

How to brush a baby’s teeth?

There are a few things to determine when it comes to how to brush a baby’s teeth. First up, what “utensil” you will use. Any of the following are acceptable: 

  • A clean, damp washcloth
  • A gauze pad
  • A clean finger 
  • A pediatric toothbrush moistened with water and a tiny amount (no more than a rice grain) of fluoride toothpaste

If you decide to use a toothbrush, make sure it is very soft and contains no more than three rows of bristles. You may want to consult your pediatric dentist to find the best option that is proper for baby. Be sure to swap out your baby’s toothbrush after roughly 2 to 4 months of use or when the brush becomes rough at the edges.

To brush your baby’s teeth, place the brush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush in a circular motion for two minutes; gently brush or wipe the front of the tongue as well. Pediatric dentists recommend brushing both after meals and at bedtime.

How to brush a toddler’s teeth?

Once your baby hits the toddler stage, they can start to learn to brush on their own. You’ll have to be sure to watch them closely—and perhaps follow up with a thorough brushing of your own—to make sure their teeth are getting clean enough. This is also the age when they can learn to properly spit out toothpaste rather than swallowing. 

The guidelines for when and how to brush a toddler’s teeth are the same as for baby: brush in a circular motion for two minutes, after meals and at bedtime.

At the toddler stage, however, you may encourage more resistance from your child. Dentists recommend a few tips to make teeth-brushing more fun and engaging:

  • Choose a toothbrush with their favorite TV or movie character.
  • Distract your child by having them “brush” the teeth of their favorite stuffed animal or doll, while you brush your child’s teeth.
  • Play some music to set a fun mood.
  • Brush your own teeth at the same time so it seems like a fun family activity.

The bottom line? It’s never too early to starting brushing your baby’s teeth. You’ll promote good oral hygiene, keep their mouths fresh and clean, and establish a healthy approach to dental care for their lifetime.

At Loop, we’re also all about promoting good health for your baby. We offer a wide range of products for rent that are developed and designed with health in mind, from items promoting healthy sleep to healthy feeding essentials and toys that promote healthy development

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