Guide to Brushing Babies Teeth

Mother brushing toddlers teeth

Brushing teeth can be a source of much conflict with little ones, however it is important to try and make it work. When brushing try (as far as is possible), to make it a collaborative process. Often sitting the child on your knee and brushing from the side, rather than face to face can help with this. If your child wants control of the brush then giving them a second brush (let them have choice of which they want, and you use the other one) can work.

If your child knows that the end of bath time means it time for brushing and this is a battle zone, then mix it up and brush before bath, or even in the bath. Try not to scrub too hard – plaque is soft and will come away with a gentle swipe of the brush. Attacking your child’s mouth like a particularly bad red wine stain on a white sofa will only lead to tears and conflict. If you only get a short period of co-operation then try and start in different parts of the mouth morning and night – this way most teeth should see a brush and toothpaste at least once a day.

I would encourage parents to be the ones cleaning a child’s mouth up to eight or nine years of age, and even after this it is good to check that brushing is still adequate – the occasional use of disclosing tablets (available from your dentist or pharmacy) after brushing to show where plaque is still lurking is a good reminder to pre-teens and adolescents that brushing is still important.

Most under fives will not be keen on an electric brush, but when the time comes there is good clinical data to show that a decent electric toothbrush (rechargeable not battery operated) cleans more effectively than a regular manual toothbrush. Oral-B makes a good children’s brush (Disney Princesses or Cars depending on preference) or simply get a child brush head for the regular Oral-B brush (again, available from most pharmacies or online).

A number of the toothbrush and toothpaste companies now have apps for smartphones with timers to encourage longer brushing and rewards when good habits develop – search for tooth brushing timer on The App Store or Google Play.

I encourage my patients to start bringing their children in to see me from as soon as teeth look to be appearing. The more familiar an infant is with the dental setting the easier things get as they grow from babies to toddlers to children. There is nothing worse than a child of six or seven whose first experience of the dentist is when they have fallen and cracked a tooth – a sure-fire way to create a dental phobic for life.

If a dentist is regularly examining the developing mouth and teeth then any problems should be picked up on early and this can often make things easier to deal with. Occasionally a child may develop problems with their tooth enamel or may be making too many or too few teeth. If a dentist can pick up on these and other problems early then a referral to the appropriate specialist can help prevent many problems later down the road.

Continue to part 4 – Pacifying Baby, Dummy or Thumb?


Iain Soulsby BDS, BSc (Hons.)

About the author: Iain Soulsby studied Dentistry and Psychology at Guys Hospital Dental School, University of London. He works at Hayes Dental Surgery in Bromley, South East London (020 8462 1347) .

Iain is father to Emily and Charlotte (6 and nearly 2 at the time of writing) He would like more time with his family, more time with his patients and more time to sleep – this isn’t going to be possible.

Photo accreditation: makelessnoise (flickr)

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