When and How to Start Cleaning Your Baby’s Teeth

Little girl brushing teeth

You have been blessed with a child — maybe one of the most satisfying experiences of your life! Now we must take care of this precious bundle. Establishing proper dental health routines from the very beginning is essential to having your child grow up healthy and happy.


Care starts as soon as your child comes home. Their first formal dental visit will occur around age one, or six months after their first tooth erupts, which is usually around six months old. Discover what to expect at different ages and how to best care for your baby’s teeth. 


Children Aged 0-6 Months


Take a clean washcloth, a terry cloth finger cot, or a baby gum toothbrush and gently run your finger over the baby’s gum twice daily.


Their first tooth, which is usually a lower anterior, erupts at about six months. It is important that whatever we place in baby’s mouth is clean. Do not use your mouth to clean their pacifier, toothbrush etc.


Children Aged 6-12


At six months, with one tooth present, still continue to use the washcloth to clean most of the mouth. A small soft or specific infant/toddler brush may be introduced to gently clean the first tooth.


Start to wean baby off the bottle and transition to a sippy cup. Do not let the baby go to sleep with a bottle, as milk, juice etc. contain sugar that can seriously damage baby teeth. This is commonly referred to as nursing bottle syndrome. 


When the baby uses a sippy cup, ensure they use it for a short, specific time. Eat, drink and clean it regularly. We do not want your baby’s teeth being bathed in a fluid that contains sugar for a prolonged period of time. Remember that milk contains a sugar called lactose.


By one year, make the first appointment with a pediatric dentist. Establish a baseline and rapport that will be with your offspring for his entire life.


At six months, just use water to brush the single tooth. As more teeth erupt and the baby approaches one year, fluoride toothpaste should be introduced. We recommend a tiny smear, the size of a grain of rice. Usually at this time, the baby can spit the toothpaste and saliva out as you brush.


When to Start Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth


You can start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth comes in. Transition from using your finger or washcloth to an infant soft nylon toothbrush. Read the label on toothbrushes, as they are designed by age and approved by the ADA.


Pick colorful, fun brushes that may remind your child of a TV program. These brushes will have big handles to facilitate your baby’s ability to eventually hold the brush.


How to Brush Your Baby’s Teeth


Use a gentle, circular motion — have the bristles face up upwards at a 45-degree angle for the upper teeth and downwards for the lower. The bristles should face towards the gum. Brush the outside, inside and top of the teeth. Make sure to get all the way back on baby’s molars.


Before your baby can stand,

  •  It’s best to have the child lying down, with their head supported
  • You can use the floor, bed, changing table, or crib

Once your toddler can stand,

  • Stand behind your child and let him look in the bathroom mirror with you
  • Use positive words like bright, shiny, clean, feels good
  • Don’t use double negatives like “this won’t hurt”
  • Make it a game — count their teeth
  • Praise your child when the brushing is completed

What to Do If Your Toddler Doesn’t Like Teeth Brushing

  1. Allow them to select their own toothbrush in the store — maybe something that they are familiar with from a TV show.
  2. Always keep it fun — play music, sing a song, ask them to wiggle their tongue, etc.
  3. Always stay calm, DO NOT get stressed.
  4. Give them a reward after brushing successfully.
  5. Set aside a specific time to make brushing part of a routine. What is a priority for you, becomes a priority for your child.

Pediatric Dental Care


Our team of pediatric dentists and hygienists is here at 172 NYC Dental to answer your questions and guide you in constructing a sound program of dental health care for your child. We are anxious to meet you and your most precious bundle. Please call us at 646-921-5541 for an appointment.

About Dr. Benjamin Ahn

Meet Dr. Benjamin Ahn, a top-rated general, and cosmetic dentist and one of the best Invisalign dentist practicing at 209 NYC Dental, a multi-specialty dental practice in Midtown East Manhattan.

Questions? Contact us online or give us a call at 646-921-5541 today!
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