Dad teaching daughter how to brush her teeth

It’s the end of a long day. Your kid’s been awake and running you ragged since long before sensible o’clock. You’re counting down the last few minutes until you can put them to bed before having to get everything ready to do it all again tomorrow. How many times, in that exhausted moment, has the thought entered your head – “do they really need to brush their teeth every night?”

Here’s all you need to know about brushing your kid’s teeth and how to make it more fun than frustrating.

Why is brushing children’s teeth important?

How a child’s teeth develop throughout their childhood and into adulthood is often determined by habits established before they’re two years old. What and how they eat and drink plays a part, but toothbrushing is a big part of ensuring they develop strong and healthy permanent teeth. Having a healthy mouthful of teeth is also important when it comes to chewing and digesting food properly and learning to talk.

It can be tempting to think that because they’re going to lose all their baby teeth, oral hygiene isn’t that big a deal until their adult teeth come through. But baby teeth play a vital role in the alignment, spacing and health of permanent teeth. The enamel of baby teeth is more fragile than in adult teeth, so it makes them even more vulnerable to decay and damage. By looking after your child’s oral hygiene from birth, you’ll be setting them up with a good routine and helping to protect their teeth for life.

When should kids start brushing their teeth?

Oral hygiene is one of those things we all like to think we’re pretty good at, but most people could do with spending a bit more time and care over cleaning their teeth. As with a lot of aspects of parenting, if you can set a good example from the start, you’ll be halfway to winning. So, let your baby see you brushing your teeth regularly, talk to them about what you’re doing and make it look and sound like fun! It’s amazing what babies take in and if you can get them used to toothbrushing being part of the routine before they’re defiant toddlers, it might just make things easier.

First teeth to 3 years old

As soon as your baby’s first teeth pop through – usually the front two at the top or bottom – it’s time to get a very soft baby toothbrush and some age-appropriate toothpaste and start brushing their teeth twice a day. Wet the brush, add a small smear of toothpaste and brush the teeth and gums gently with a circular motion. Don’t forget to brush the tongue too. Sitting them on your lap in front of a mirror is a good way to let them see what’s happening.

Try to teach your little one to spit the toothpaste out at the end of tooth brushing, but you don’t need to worry about rinsing because it’s important to let the ingredients in the toothpaste stay in the mouth to do their job. As soon as they’re old enough to show an interest and hold the brush, let them have a go at brushing first, then mommy or daddy take over to make sure it’s done properly.

3 to 6 years old

From three years old onwards teeth should be brushed twice a day using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste made for that age group. Some toddlers and older children will want to do it all themselves, but it’s important that you always step in after they’ve finished to reach those hard to clean areas. It’s recommended that kids brush their teeth for at least two minutes, so you could try using a favorite song or fun timer to help.  

6 to 12 years old

Six years old is about the age when most children can start becoming more independent with tooth brushing as they’ll be able to understand more detailed instructions about how to brush their teeth. Check out the professional advice from brands like Colgate and Orajel for step-by-step instructions on how to brush and floss properly. It’s recommended that you still supervise them up until the age of 12. Regular trips to the dentist will also help make sure your kid’s tooth brushing is up to scratch.

Top tips for kids’ teeth brushing

  • Check your child’s toothbrush regularly and get a new one if it starts to fray. Change to a new toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
  • Use age appropriate toothbrushes and toothpaste. Most packaging will show the suitable age range, just make sure you make the step up to the next age group when your child hits those birthday milestones.
  • Try getting a child’s electric toothbrush to help your little one. Go for one with a pressure sensor to stop them brushing too hard and built in timer to make sure they’re brushing for the recommended two minutes.
  • Toddlers can be particularly reluctant to brush their teeth. Try letting them brush yours first and make it look like you’re really enjoying it!
  • Toothbrushes with their favorite characters might also help kids to step up to the sink and get brushing.
  • There’s a ton of apps available to make tooth brushing more fun. Check out BrushDJ, Chomper Chums and Brusheez Little Monsters for starters.

Photo attribution: Designed by Freepik

Not there yet? You can learn How to brush your baby’s teeth from our blog post before moving onto these steps.

If you want to record this milestone, use Lifecake’s baby milestone app and share photos with family.