Everything you need to know about brushing your baby or toddler's teeth
Baby brushing their teeth

If you’re a new parent, then you’ve likely got a lot of things to worry about. Changing nappies, making sure they’re fed, keeping to a routine, trying to get them to sleep, trying to get some sleep yourself - the list is endless!

So, when your baby starts teething, it can feel like just another thing you have to find time for, and you may not know where to start.

That’s why we’ve written this guide about how to care for your baby’s or toddler’s teeth to help you keep those new pearly whites clean and bright until they’re old enough to brush for themselves.

Brushing your baby’s teeth

Keeping your baby’s teeth clean is really important. From the second their first tooth pops through, it can fall victim to plaque and bacteria, so you need to keep those little baby teeth clean!

If you brush their teeth twice a day, you’ll be helping to protect them from tooth decay. Let’s take a look at what you can do to keep your baby’s teeth clean and sparkly from the moment they appear.

When to start brushing your baby’s teeth

You should start to brush your baby’s teeth as soon as they get their first tooth. Brushing won’t take long at first, but it will help you and your little one to form good tooth brushing habits that will last a lifetime.

When do babies start teething?

Teething is when your baby gets their first set of teeth, and it normally begins when they’re around 6 months old. However, babies can start teething earlier or later than this, and it can be painful for them.

The teething process usually lasts until your child is around 2 and a half years old, so be prepared to clean more and more teeth as they pop up!

How to brush your baby’s teeth

You brush your baby’s teeth exactly as you would your own, with their own toothbrush and toothpaste.

Put a tiny amount of baby-appropriate toothpaste onto their toothbrush and gently brush all around their teeth and gums.

You’re going to want to brush your baby’s teeth twice a day, just as you would yourself. If you’re finding it a little difficult to brush their teeth properly, the NHS recommends[1] that you pop your little one on your knee with the back of their head resting against your chest.

Sit in front of a mirror; this way, both you and your baby can see what you’re doing, and they’ll feel more comfortable if they can see what’s going on.

Baby toothbrushes

Baby toothbrushes are smaller and have softer bristles, meaning they’re kind to your baby’s new teeth while still brushing away harmful plaque and bacteria.

A lot of baby toothbrushes have easy-grip handles, so your baby can easily grab the handle as they start to learn to brush for themselves.

 Just take a look at the toothbrush’s packaging for an age rating, which will tell you if it’s age appropriate for your baby.

Baby toothpastes

You should get your baby a toothpaste that’s appropriate for their age, rather than using your own toothpaste to clean their teeth.

Baby toothpastes contain less fluoride than adult toothpastes, with the NHS recommending [2]that you use a toothpaste with up to 1,000ppm of fluoride for babies, whereas adult toothpastes should contain 1,350–1,500ppm of fluoride.

Using a baby toothpaste will help you to keep your child’s sensitive first teeth safe from tooth decay without using more fluoride than they need.

Mum and baby brushing their teeth together

Brushing your toddler’s teeth

You’ve managed to brush your baby’s teeth, but now it’s time for your little one to start learning how to brush for themselves!

As any parent knows, this is easier said than done. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do to make this whole process a bit easier.

Toddler toothbrushes

When choosing your toddler’s toothbrush, you should look at the age rating on the packaging of the brush, just as you would when choosing a baby’s toothbrush.

Toddler toothbrushes are normally suitable for children between the ages of 3–6 and will have soft bristles that will keep your child from accidentally damaging their teeth and gums as they learn to brush.

Lots of these toothbrushes have bright colours and fun characters printed on them, so you can choose a brush that will make your child excited to brush their teeth twice a day[3].

You can even pick up rechargeable or battery powered electric toothbrushes that are suitable for children aged 3 and up!

Toddler toothpastes

Once your child turns 3 it’s time to pick out a new toothpaste to match their new toothbrush.

Toddler toothpastes should contain at least 1,000ppm of fluoride and you should start to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste when it’s time to brush their teeth.

These toothpastes are perfect for little ones, and some of them have fun flavours like strawberry and bubblegum that kids will love to use every day.

How to make brushing fun!

Now you’ve picked out the right toothbrush and toothpaste, you’re going to have to deal with the tricky part – getting your toddler to want to brush their teeth!

They should be brushing their teeth for the same amount of time as adults do (2 minutes, twice a day), but teaching them how to brush for themselves can be a real pain in the… gums.

Here are a couple of simple ideas that you can use to make brushing feel fun and less like a chore:

  • Let your child pick out the toothbrush they love the most; this will help to get them involved in brushing their teeth from the very start.
  • Set a routine and make sure that they brush their teeth at the same time every day so they know that as soon as they’ve had their breakfast, it’s time to get brushing.
  • Make a big deal out of them brushing properly. Did they take the time to get those teeth clean and shiny? It’s party time! Make sure they know how happy you are that they’ve brushed their teeth and make it the performance of a lifetime! The more encouraging you can be the better, so it’s time to put your cheerleading skills to the test!
  • Make a rewards chart and let your little one pop a sticker onto the chart when they’ve brushed their teeth for the day. When the chart is full, you can pick out a little prize for all of their hard work.
  • Countdown the 2 minutes of brushing together. Set a 2-minute timer and do a little brushing dance, read a story, sing a song, watch a fun video, make funny faces and count down those 120 seconds in the most entertaining way you can.
  • Give your toddler a play toothbrush that they can use to brush their favourite toy's teeth as you brush theirs. This way they can practice brushing and you can help to keep their teeth clean.
  • Give your child a toy to distract them as they're learning to brush.
Laughing toddler

Now you know everything about keeping those little smiles shining brightly, so go out there and make tooth brushing time as fun as it can be!

For starters, why not check out our range of children’s toothbrushes and toothpaste? We’ve got everything you need to make teaching your child to care for their teeth a lot less stressful.

Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 10 November 2023
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