May 25, 2023


“When to start brushing baby teeth” is one of the most frequently asked questions about oral care for babies. When you’re in the midst of so many other changes, including nursing and sleeping adjustments, changing up your bedtime routine might be the last thing on your mind.

But, soon enough you’ll be standing side-by-side with your toddler, brushing your teeth together and teaching them good dental hygiene.

We’re here to help you understand, according to the experts, when to start brushing baby teeth, how to kickstart successful oral care habits, and a few bonus tips on how to brush your baby’s teeth.  

When Do You Start Brushing Baby Teeth?

Babies develop their teeth at all different ages, and you never know exactly when that first little pearly white is going to pop through their gums. However, did you know that baby oral care actually starts before their first teeth erupt?

The American Dental Association has provided medical guidance on when to start brushing baby teeth, and they recommend regular gum cleaning starting only a week or two after birth. While the cleaning process recommended by the ADA isn’t technically brushing, it’s still important. 

Even though babies have a limited diet (formula and/or breastmilk), they still have bacteria in their mouths. Cleaning their gums with a soft, wet rag or an infant toothbrush will help prevent bacteria from accumulating, and get you both used to practicing oral care each night (or morning). 

Most pediatric dentists say that you don’t need to start “real” brushing until your baby’s first teeth have erupted. Toothbrushes are specifically designed to remove plaque and tartar build-up from teeth, and they’re the best tool to use, even at a young age.

For most kids, regular teeth brushing will begin around 6-9 months of age.

Do you Know How Often to Brush Baby Teeth?

What a minute, don’t babies eventually lose all of their teeth? What’s the point of brushing anyways? Does it really matter when we start or how regularly we brush?

It actually matters a lot!

For starters, toddlers need, crave, and thrive on routine. It’s what helps them balance their emotions, learn responsible behavior, and know what to expect on a daily basis. Keeping a consistent schedule will take the guesswork out of your morning and evening routines, and help reinforce a predictable schedule for your little one. 

As they grow older and you’re no longer asking how often to brush baby teeth, you’ll want your child to practice healthy self-discipline, especially once their adult teeth start to arrive. Parent-led training for a happy and healthy adolescence into adulthood starts young. 

It’s true that baby teeth will all fall out, but it’s also true that you want to avoid cavities and other potentially harmful (and painful) dental issues before those teeth are lost. By the time they are only one year old, your child might be eating many different kinds of food, including some that are high in sugar. Keeping their teeth clean will keep their whole mouth healthy.

Most experts recommended brushing your baby’s teeth an average of once per day. Because their teeth are not fully developed, they aren’t crowded, and babies often have a limited diet, their oral care routine doesn’t need to be as rigorous or involved as an adult’s. 
The key is consistency. Once you pick the time of day that you’re going to take a few minutes to brush your baby’s teeth, try to stick to a structure - especially if this becomes part of a bedtime routine. 

How to Brush Your Baby’s Teeth

It’s a common misconception that vigorous brushstrokes and long brushing sessions are the best way to get teeth really clean. That’s not true. In fact, overbrushing can cause damage (sometimes extensively) to gums. 

When teething, your baby’s gums are already sensitive enough without the added irritation of aggressive brushing. Here’s the best approach, according to dentists:

  • Use a toothbrush with short, soft bristles that can get between and around little baby teeth. 
  • Apply a very small amount of toothpaste (many brands now make toothpaste that is specifically formulated for infants or toddlers). You might want to make sure, though, that you’re not getting your child hooked on really sweet (even sugary) toothpaste. Babies will swallow their toothpaste, so some parents also opt for fluoride-free toothpaste when their kids are still too young to spit and rinse their mouth.
  • Lightly brush back and forth over the exposed teeth and gums without applying much pressure. 
  • Give your baby plenty of time to catch up to what you’re doing, and try to make the whole experience fun by singing a song or narrating what you’re doing in a silly voice.
  • 50-60 seconds of gentle brushing is usually enough. Then it’s on to the rest of bedtime!

When compared to all of the other changes that happen when a baby is born, oral care is actually pretty simple and easy to start. Remember to begin gum cleaning at a young age, add tooth brushing once teeth begin to show, and stay consistent for the best shot at great oral health.

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