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How to Brush Children’s Teeth – All Your Questions Answered

It is very important to start a good oral hygiene routine with your children early in order to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.  You should begin to brush your child’s teeth at the time that their first tooth erupts and continue to oversee their brushing until they reach age 5-6.  The routine will be more fun for your child if they can participate – so let your child brush their own teeth first and then you can finish the job!

When good oral hygiene becomes part of the daily routine early in life, your child will learn to enjoy the feeling of a nice clean mouth.  As a result, when they begin to brush their teeth on their own, there will be much less hassle.

Which toothbrush should I buy?

At first, you may find it easier to clean your baby’s teeth by using a piece of cloth or gauze wrapped around your finger.  Health Canada recommends brushing with just water under three years of age.

If you’d rather use a toothbrush, be sure that the toothbrush you select has soft bristles and is small enough to fit into the child’s mouth.  It is a good idea to let your child choose a toothbrush that has his/her favorite colours or characters on it.

How much toothpaste should I use?

After age three, you can apply a pea sized amount of toothpaste to the toothbrush.   A pea size is just right so that the toothpaste will not become too foamy in the mouth, but will still do a good job cleaning the teeth!

Once your child is able to brush their teeth without swallowing any water, you can use toothpaste that contains fluoride.  There are plenty of children’s toothpastes on the market.  Choose a flavor your child will like or let them choose their favorite colour or character.

Where should I stand when brushing my child’s teeth?

It is easiest to stand either beside or behind your child when brushing their teeth.  Hold the toothbrush at a position that is comfortable for you and place your other hand on the child’s shoulder or base of the neck.

How long should I brush my child’s teeth for?


Once your child has all of their teeth, the routine should take 2 minutes.  There are colourful, inexpensive sand filled timers that work well for children and can make the routine more fun.  Another great option is to play a song!  My 4 year old loves Elmo’s “Brushy Brushy“, we play that song twice at each brushing.

Which teeth do I brush first?

For the first minute, you will want to focus on brushing the upper and lower back teeth, spending the most time on the chewing surfaces, moving the brush gently in a short circular motion.  These are the teeth where cavities begin to develop first.

After you are finished brushing all of the back teeth, have your child rinse with water.  It is very important to teach your child how to rinse and spit properly.  Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste is not good for your child and can have adverse side effects.

After your child has thoroughly rinsed, the last minute should be focused on cleaning the upper and lower front teeth.  Angle the toothbrush so that it is comfortable and easy for you to clean both the tongue side of the teeth as well as the front surfaces.

Should I floss my child’s teeth?

You should begin flossing your child’s teeth once they start to touch.  The first teeth to touch are usually the back teeth.  With a regular strand of floss or using a child’s dental flosser, kneel beside or in front of your child moving the floss between the teeth, starting with the back teeth and then working your way to the front.  Gently floss under the gum line.

Don’t forget to praise your child and congratulate them on a job well done!  Tell them how beautiful their teeth look and how pretty his/her smile is.  By doing this, you help boost your child’s self esteem and help your child to learn that brushing their teeth is a good thing.

How else can I protect my baby’s teeth?

To give your child the best opportunity for a healthy smile, you should:

  • Avoid fruit juices, flavoured milk and fizzy drinks or pop.  These usually contain lots of sugar and cause tooth decay.
  • Once your child reaches 6 months of age, begin to transition from a bottle to a sippy cup, discouraging the use of a bottle after they reach a year.  Once your baby is more than a year old, only give him water to drink at night.
  • Provide your baby with a healthy, balanced diet.  Encourage him/ her to enjoy savoury foods, such as vegetables and pasta, and don’t add sugar to the food.
  • If you use prepared baby foods, check that they are sugar-free or have no added sugars or sweeteners.  Be aware that other sugars, such as lactose, fructose and glucose, are just as harmful to your baby’s teeth as sucrose.
  • If your baby needs to take medicine, choose sugar-free versions.

Reserve your child’s appointment online today and receive 50% off all New Patient Kids and Youth exams before August 31st at participating locations only.

Dawson Dental Centres are knowledgeable and caring, with 17 locations across Ontario including Downtown Toronto, Cambridge, Aurora and more. We offer General& Cosmetic Dentistry services such as dental implantsInvisalign invisible braces and dental veneers. New patients are warmly welcome!