Brushing Toddler Teeth

You may have already begun brushing your child’s teeth or wiping them with a bit of gauze. If not, get into this twice-a-day habit as soon as possible. Good oral hygiene is important for a child’s earliest teeth; cavities and tooth decay in the primary teeth can cause problems for the permanent teeth that come in later.


  • Dab a small, soft-bristled brush with a tiny smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice), or wrap a piece of gauze around your finger and put the same small amount of toothpaste on it. Pediatric dentists recommend this small amount of toothpaste through age 3 (because very young children aren’t able to spit) and then increasing the amount to about the size of a pea after that.
  • Begin brushing the front teeth and move backward carefully toward the molars, if there are any. Ask your child to stick out her tongue (model this, and she’ll mimic you) to give it a quick swipe as well.
  • Let your toddler watch you to see how you brush, spit, rinse and smile. Then give her her own toothbrush and let her give it a try.

Keep in mind, however, that while modeling how you brush your teeth is OK, it’s even more important to make sure your child’s teeth are adequately cleaned. You may need to take over brushing your child’s teeth at certain points during each cleaning until she’s able to do it competently herself.

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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