Getting your child to brush their teeth can be a struggle. Our Dental Experts Dr Chin Shou King and Dr Sara Ok from T32 Junior (Kids Dentistry) answer some of the frequently asked questions about children’s brushing.

best age for baby to brush teeth

Qn: What age should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?

Ans: You should start wiping your baby’s gums around 2-3 months with a clean gauze moistened with water and continue this until around the age of 12 months when the baby has several teeth. This lessens the number of bacteria in the mouth and helps acclimate the baby to cleanings it will need to receive once the first tooth does erupt (around 4 months).

Once the baby has several teeth (around 12 months) you can try to use a small baby toothbrush with water. Add a small smear of toothpaste (about the size of a rice grain) when they are 24 months, and move up to a pea-sized amount when they spit out most of the toothpaste.

Qn: My 2 year old boy likes brushing his teeth because he enjoys licking & sucking up the toothpaste. How can I teach him to gurgle & spit out the water? Is it safe for him to consume the toothpaste twice daily?

Ans: Children often learn best by imitation. Try to brush at the same time as your child, even if you plan to eat after the nightly brushing, brush with him so he can see what you are doing and imitate you and then brush again after your meal.

Use only a thin layer along the top of the toothbrush until he learns to spit out to reduce the amount of ingested fluoride and keep the toothpaste out of reach so he doesn’t try to eat it later on. It is safe to consume a little fluoride a day, so use a small smear of low fluoride (children’s toothpaste) until he learns to spit out.

brushing teeth for kids

Qn: My 9 month boy has been brushing with baby toothpaste until recently an article mentioned using toothpaste only when a child knows how to spit even if toothpaste says it’s safe for consumption. Any comments on that?

Ans: Babies can began using toothpaste at the age of 2 years old unless they are in need of more protection, such as defective enamel, prone to cavities, low saliva flow. Your dentist will recommend if you should use toothpaste before the age of two. It is fine to use toothbrush and water twice a day for babies under 2 years old.

After the age of two, began using a thin smear of toothpaste until they learn to spit out. After they have learned to spit out most of the toothpaste you can increase the amount to a pea-size.

Qn: My girl is 16 months and is quite reluctant to brush her teeth, even though I try to brush it for her twice every day. I am afraid she will get bad breath. Is it common for such 1.5 year old to have bad breath on waking up?

Ans: Bad breath for babies is not necessarily common, but it is seen with regularity. The problem may not be oral hygiene-related. Some causes can be dry mouth, sinus infection, respiratory problems, tonsillitis, gastroesophageal problems, bacterial overgrowth on the tongue or gums, cavities, tartar buildup, or dental abscess to name the most common reasons.

To rule out dental related problems, I would advise you to seek a dental professional and they can help you with a proper oral hygiene routine if it is dental related. If not dentally related, it may be time to visit the pediatrician.

teeth brushing in toddler

Qn: Any effective methods to clean my kid’s teeth?

Ans: One of the most common missed areas of children’s teeth are the gum line, the inner surface of teeth, and in between the teeth. The gum line can effectively be cleaned by taking the brush flat on the teeth as in normal brushing, and turning the bristles at a 45 degree angle so they are pointing at the gum line and moving the brush in a circular motion.

To brush the inner surface, focus on getting the top 1/3-1/2 of the toothbrush bristles on the inside instead of the entire brush and hold the toothbrush vertically when cleaning the inside of the front teeth. As for in between, flossing is the best method once the spaces in between the teeth have closed.

Qn: My baby initially loved to brush her teeth on her own. But now, she doesn’t even want to open her mouth. How do I clean a 15 month baby’s teeth?

Ans: Children often learn best by imitation. Try to brush with your child, even if you plan to eat after the nightly brushing, brush with him so he can see what you are doing and imitate you and then brush again after your meal. When you’re brushing, appear to be having a great time maybe hum her favorite song. You can also take turns brushing, where she helps you brush and you help her like a game.

If none of these techniques works, unfortunately, she will still need to brush. It will take time, but she will learn this is a part of life like changing diapers and taking baths.

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