Brushing Babies’ Teeth: When To Start And How To Do It

Learning how to follow appropriate dental care for your little one is essential.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Ashveeta Shetty, MDS Dr. Ashveeta Shetty Dr. Ashveeta ShettyMDS facebook_iconlinkedin_iconyoutube_iconinsta_icon Specialty: Pediatric and Preventive DentistryExperience: 5 years
Written by Dr. Meenakshi Maruwada
Last Updated on

Brushing babies’ teeth not only improves their dental health but also aids their overall well-being. Developing a good brushing routine helps maintain dental hygiene and keep your child’s teeth and gums disease-free throughout their life.

However, many parents are not sufficiently informed about the right time to brush their babies’ teeth, the type of toothbrush to use, and whether they must use fluoridated toothpaste.

This post offers you some important information on brushing teeth for babies.

When Should You Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?

The right time to begin brushing your baby’s teeth is when their first tooth appears around six months of age (1) (2). According to the CDC, around 80% of American children begin brushing their teeth later than they should. However, you would be surprised to know that you must clean your baby’s gums even before their first tooth erupts (3). Parents can use a soft, damp cloth or gauze to clean their baby’s gums after each feeding session for healthy oral health.

What Will You Need To Brush Your Baby’s Teeth?

Here is what you will need to clean your baby’s gums and brush their teeth.

1. Gauze pad or cloth

Parents must begin cleaning their baby’s mouth a few days after birth. You can use a clean, moist gauze pad or washcloth (4)

2. The right toothbrush

The right time to begin tooth brushing is as soon as the first milk tooth erupts.  Around this time, it is convenient to use a finger toothbrush made of silicone as it gives the parents greater control over the brushing process (5).

As your baby grows older, you can select a kids’ toothbrush that has soft bristles and a smaller head (5). It is important to change your baby’s toothbrush once every three months, or sooner if their toothbrush bristles begin fraying as babies tend to chew on the bristles while brushing.

3. Toothpaste

Excess toothpaste is not recommended for children as children tend to swallow the toothpaste (1). You must use a smear- or rice-sized quantity of toothpaste until the age of three. For children between three and six years of age, a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste is recommended by the American Dental Association (6).

Parents must continue to brush their child’s teeth up to six or seven years, or monitor the activity if the child wishes to brush on their own. It is recommended to initiate flossing if there are no gaps between milk teeth and also when permanent teeth begin to erupt (6).

How To Brush Baby Teeth?

Below are the steps to follow to brush your little one’s teeth (2).

  • Place your baby in your lap with their head supported by your chest.
  • For babies younger than three, use a smear of toothpaste on their baby brush or a finger brush.
  • Begin brushing your baby’s teeth in circles, taking time to cover all the surfaces of each tooth.
  • Be gentle while brushing your baby’s teeth as their gums are soft and delicate.
  • Do not forget to clean their tongue. Use the bristles of the toothbrush to clean their tongue.
  • Take a damp washcloth and wipe away any visible toothpaste froth. Older babies and toddlers could be encouraged to spit out..

You must make it a habit to brush your baby’s teeth twice a day and for about two minutes each time.

What To Do If Your Baby Hates Brushing Teeth?

Some babies take to brushing easily, while others may dislike it. Here are some ways to get your baby on board with brushing.

1. Introduce gradually: Take small steps and introduce brushing to your baby gently. You may start with a mock brushing session where you place the baby in your lap. Use a wet gauze pad or finger brush to pretend that you are brushing the baby’s teeth. Repeat it each day at a fixed time. It will make it easier for the baby to adapt to the actual process eventually.

2. Make it enjoyable: There are multiple ways to make brushing enjoyable for the baby. Make funny brushing noises, put on some fun brushing videos, or get their favorite TV character or cartoon character-based toothbrushes to make it a fun experience.

3. Sing a song: Singing a song is a fun way to get your baby to brush and distract them while you brush their teeth.

4. Let them imitate you: Children love to imitate others, especially their parents. Make brushing a family affair where you brush your teeth and allow them to watch you. This could make them more compliant during the brushing process.

5. Use two toothbrushes: Babies and toddlers love to do everything by themselves. Give them a toothbrush to keep them occupied while you brush their teeth with the other.

6. Try without toothpaste: Many babies dislike the taste of toothpaste. If you observe that your baby doesn’t like toothpaste, get them used to brushing initially and then introduce small amounts of toothpaste as they grow older (7).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if the baby’s teeth bleed while brushing?

If you observe your baby’s gums bleed while brushing, it may be a sign of gum disease (8). It is best to visit your baby’s pediatric dentist to get their teeth and gums evaluated.

2. Should you brush the baby’s teeth after every feed?

It is advised that you clean your baby’s gums with a clean and moist gauze pad or washcloth after every feed. Once your baby’s teeth appear, you can brush them twice a day.

3. Can you brush your baby’s teeth with coconut oil?

It is recommended to use only fluoridated baby toothpaste to brush a baby’s teeth. There is no scientific evidence to prove that using oil has any beneficial effect on dental hygiene (9).

4. How can I keep my baby teeth white?

Your baby’s teeth may discolor for different reasons such as a disease, medication use, and tooth injury. So you may try the following to keep them white (10):

  • Regular and frequent teeth brushing to maintain oral hygiene
  • Use a rice grain-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste but consult the doctor before use
  • Teeth bleaching depending on the cause and upon recommendation by their doctor

Oral care is important for the overall well-being of children. Therefore, you should start a regular dental hygiene routine even before your baby’s first tooth eruption. After each feed, use a moist gauze pad to clean your baby’s gums. Brushing babies’ teeth becomes important once they appear. Use a finger toothbrush to clean their teeth twice daily and wipe the gums and tongue too. Keep the process gradual and make it fun. Visit a pediatric dentist yearly to ensure your child enjoys good dental health.

Key Pointers

  • You may begin brushing the baby’s teeth after they attain six months of age.
  • For a few days after birth, choose a clean washcloth or gauze pad to clean your baby’s gums.
  • Be gentle, make the process fun and educate them about the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene.


1. Parents: You May Not Start Brushing Your Child’s Teeth As Soon As You Should- and Yes, It’s a Big Problem,Cleveland Clinic
2. Looking After Your Baby’s Teeth,NHS UK
3. Brushing your child’s teeth,Department of Health Government of Western Australia
4. Baby Teeth,Mouth Healthy by American Dental Association
5. Brushing Baby Teeth: Handy Hints and How-Tos,NCT New Parent Support
6. Dental Care Tips for Mom and Baby,American Dental Association
7. Toothbrushing- Children,Better Health Channel
8. Periodontal Disease in Children,University of Rochester Medical Center
9. Oil Pulling, American Dental Association
10. Discolored baby teeth: A cause for concern?, Beacon Health System
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Dr. Ashveeta Shetty is an assistant professor at DY Patil School of Dentistry and also runs her own dental clinic in Mumbai. Having done her Master of Dental Surgery (MDS) in Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry from Terna Dental College, she is currently pursuing her PhD.

Read full bio of Dr. Ashveeta Shetty
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