How do I teach my kids to brush their teeth?

A healthy smile comes from taking proper care of your teeth. Parents, you can teach your child the best ways to practice great oral care! The American Dental Association suggests brushing and flossing teeth after meals to promote the best dental health. Parents, caring about your child’s teeth is important, even their baby teeth.  You can make brushing teeth a fun activity! Look for ways to have fun with your children while they brush, and around toothbrush time.

When your child is a baby, as early as 6 to 7 months old, before the first tooth appears, you can gently wipe the gums with a soft cloth, a soft baby toothbrush, or with gauze and water to keep the gums clean. Your baby may enjoy the gentle rub on the gums if she is in pain from teething.  Do not use toothpaste as your baby is not old enough to spit or rinse.

Once your child’s baby teeth start to form, usually around age 2 or 3, it is safe to begin an at-home brushing routine and teach brushing techniques.  Brushing the teeth will remove sticky plaque, or food particles from inside of your child’s mouth.

  • Use a soft, small-rounded toothbrush and only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on your child’s teeth. Too much toothpaste can overflow out of your child’s mouth.
  • Brush every angle within your child’s mouth.  When you finish brushing the outsides of the teeth, angle the toothbrush slightly up toward the gums. Brush back and forth gently in very short strokes along every tooth.
  • You don’t have to brush for the recommended full two-minutes if teaching your toddler, but increase the time as they become more comfortable and as they get older.
  • Be sure to rinse out the mouth when brushing is complete
  • Most dentists suggest changing your toothbrush every three (3) months.

Here are some more tips to make brushing fun for your child!

  • Allow your child to see you having fun when brushing your own teeth! Children like to do what their parents do, so if you’re having a good time taking care of your mouth, they will too!
  • Create an oral care chart and hang near or in the bathroom. You can find fun charts online.
  • Give your child lots of praise when they brush their teeth correctly and frequently! This is a great way to make good oral care a routine habit.
  • Brush the teeth of a doll or toy, so your child can begin learning how to hold a toothbrush.
  • Give them a chance to brush their own teeth, and then follow up by showing them how to brush correctly.
  • Sing a happy brushing song and make fun noises! Play a song, or download the Kool Smiles app- a fun monster keeps time while your child brushes!
  • Remember that sugary sweets before bed are bad for your child’s mouth! If your baby needs a bottle in or before bed, fill with water. Juice and even milk have enzymes that can cause tooth decay.

Be patient, and remember to practice brushing after every meal. Give your child healthy snacks like raw vegetables and fruit to help clean your child’s teeth throughout the day. Your child is watching you so be sure to care for your smile! Have fun, and remember that an early start and great oral care will keep your child’s smile healthy and happy for a lifetime!

“Look for ways to have fun with your children while they brush, and around toothbrush time. For more answers to help teach your kids to brush their teeth, click here.”

Dr. D. Ray Gifford, DMD
Kool Smiles Managing Dental Director, Arizona and Texas
DMD University of Florida



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