Baby Toothbrush

When Should You Brush Baby Teeth – Is It Necessary?

This topic has been well debated among parents over the generations. If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “When should you brush baby teeth?”, then you’ve come to the right place for answers.

Should I be brushing my baby’s teeth and if so, when should I start?

What products do I use?

How do I instill good oral habits from a young age?

My suggestions and recommendations come from a Professional standpoint as well as from personal experience. I’m a Registered Dental Hygienist and love working with children. Again, each parent will choose what’s best for their baby/child based on their own traditions and customs. I’m merely here to provide valuable information, so you can make your decisions with the information provided in mind.

When to Start?

As with most things in life, the earlier you start, the better it is in the long run. Having a solid foundation is crucial to ensuring good brushing habits as a child and ultimately as an adult.

I started with my son almost immediately when he got home from the hospital. I didn’t start brushing right away, but I used a rag to wipe his gums twice a day (morning and night) every day.

Getting your baby used to a cleaning agent in his mouth will make brushing so much easier when their teeth do come in. Once I started using a toothbrush, the transition was so easy for him. There were no hesitations or “tantrums” because this was his usual routine.

Do You Have to Use a Toothbrush?

The short answer is NO.

Before your little one has teeth, there’s no need to use an actual toothbrush as this might be too hard on the gums.

You can use a clean wash rag to wipe the gums to remove milk residue. This is the cheapest option as you already have rags for your little one. You can also use a gum stimulator, which is rubber, so it’s a little more soothing on the gums. This will prepare your baby for the motion of the toothbrush.

Wash Cloth

I purchased a stage by stage toothbrush set that I picked up at Walmart. The first stage was just a rubber gum stimulator which works great to just get the brushing motion, while still removing residue. The second stage was still a rubber brush with rubber bristles. And the 3rd and final stage was an ultra soft bristled toothbrush.

There are also finger toothbrushes on the market that you can purchase to make brushing easier for both parent and child. The brush fits snug over your finger so you can get into smaller spaces in the mouth.

What about Fluoride?

This is a much debated topic!

Babies and young children don’t require as much fluoride as adults. Fluoride has been shown to reduce the risk of cavities but there are still many people who choose not to use fluoride based on either personal preference or because of their lack of knowledge.

Many kids toothpaste do not contain fluoride, and many of them contain very small amounts of fluoride. Always read the labels on your kids toothpaste. The fluoride content is lower than that of adult toothpastes.

Fluoride is not inherently bad for you, as it’s a natural mineral. Depending on where you live, your drinking water might contain fluoride as a preventative measure against tooth decay.

There are alternatives to fluoride that some people prefer to use. There are also many home remedies that have been used throughout history as a means of preventing tooth decay.

Toothpaste or Not?

ToothpasteEven though toothpaste is the general “go to” product used to brush your teeth, it is not the end all be all.

For babies especially, you must be very careful to not use too much toothpaste (about a rice grain), if you do at all.

It is recommended to only use toothpaste once your child can effectively expel the contents from their mouth through rinsing. As long as you rinse with water, that’s a good start.


Once you baby’s teeth do come in though, you might want to look into products to prevent tooth decay as baby teeth are just as susceptible, if not more.

What’s the Main Reason for Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?

As mentioned earlier, prevention of cavities is the ultimate goal.

Many people don’t realize that baby teeth are more proned to cavities because the consumption of milk (which is essentially sugar) is so much higher.

Leaving milk on your baby’s teeth overnight should be a big “no no”. I know it’s not always possible to sneak that night brushing in after the bedtime feed, but try to slowly work it into your nightly routine. Your baby will thank you later 🙂

Baby Toothbrush

For babies with teeth who still get feeds in the middle of the night, the risk of cavities increases even more.

This is because cleaning your baby’s teeth in the middle of the night is the last thing on your mind when you just want to go back to sleep!

So always aim to brush every morning to remove all the leftover milk from the night before.

Baby teeth pave the way for the adult teeth so taking care of baby teeth is especially important.

So Should you be Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth?

A resounding YES! YES! YES! Yes To Brushing

Not only should you be brushing your baby’s teeth, but you also need to model proper brushing so your child can see the importance of it.

Do your research and find the safest baby brushes for your little one. The bristles should be very soft to prevent damage to the gums.

Before the teeth come in, you can use a clean wash rag or rubber stimulator to keep the gums clean and to get your baby into good brushing habits at an early age.

Good oral hygiene that is taught early on will usually transfer into adulthood. In a society that is so driven by appearance, you want to ensure that your child has the best possible foundation to have the best smile later on in life.

For many parents, growing up, their own parents weren’t as diligent with their oral hygiene. Why deprive your child of good oral habits when you have the necessary knowledge to teach them what’s right?

Share your thought below about your experience with brushing your child’s teeth. Was it a breeze? Was your child resistant? What are your thoughts on the fluoride debate? Thanks for reading 🙂


∼ Shantaye





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10 thoughts on “When Should You Brush Baby Teeth – Is It Necessary?

  1. ShanLo May 25, 2018 at 7:44 pm

    Great Article, I wondering when to clean babies teeth or I should wait until they grew teeth, now I know what to do thanks to this useful information, Thanks!

    • Shantaye May 27, 2018 at 2:29 am

      You’re very welcome. I’m happy you found this information useful. Thanks for taking the time to read the article.

  2. Felix May 25, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks Shantaye for this professional insight. I didn’t know, that babies are even at higher risk developing cavities. My youngest daughter (almost 2) loved her toothbrush early on. Unfortunately, it was more interesting for her to chew on it rather than cleaning her teeth. Now, at the age of 2 (years) she still eats the toothpaste and it takes some work to show her how it has to be done.

    • Shantaye May 27, 2018 at 2:32 am

      I agree that kids tend to focus more on eating the toothbrush, or using it for anything but its intended use. But with persistence, they usually eventually get the hang of it. Once your daughter is a little bit older, you can try introducing an electric toothbrush – kids tend to gravitate more towards that because it’s a “fun” way of brushing. Plus it removes more plaque than a regular toothbrush in many cases. Thanks again.

  3. Marla Smith May 25, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    My son is 10 years old. We have well water, so no fluoride in our water. He has a fluoride treatment at the dentist 1-2 times a year and he also takes a fluoride pill once a day. Can he be getting too much fluoride?

    • Shantaye May 27, 2018 at 2:43 am

      Well there are a few things to consider when thinking about the supplements? Was it approved by your dentist? And does your son drink bottled water? If your son does drink bottled water, then he might be getting enough fluoride from that. There’s a list including dietary habits that you could get your dentist have you fill out to see if the supplements are warranted. Too much fluoride at an early age could cause fluorosis which causes white or brown pitting on the teeth. But chances are, if your dentist approved it then you should be fine. Let me know if you have any more questions. Thanks.

  4. Angie May 25, 2018 at 11:33 pm

    This is something I definitely worry about. My son is 2. His teeth are great luckily, but I think it has something to do with a good diet also. We definitely try to remember to brush every time he’s in the bath, I get him to copy me. We use a fluoride free toothpaste and try to make it a game. I’m glad you have shared your knowledge as I know I was pretty unclear as to why and when to brush my baby’s teeth. Thank-you, Angie

    • Shantaye May 27, 2018 at 2:48 am

      That’s great news! Modeling good brushing has definitely shown to improve the chances of your child also having good brushing habits. Are you against fluoride at all or you’re just using non-fluoride for right now? Either way, you’re doing a great job of ensuring your child has great oral health. Thanks for your input.

  5. vicki May 26, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Great advise here. My son didn’t get any teeth until he was 13 months old and when I started brushing he would fight me every time. Wish I had started using a rag from early on to get him used to the feeling. My daughter has had teeth since she was 7 months and I started at that point. She doesn’t mind at the moment. Fingers crossed that carries on. Thank you for sharing this information 🙂

    • Shantaye May 27, 2018 at 2:50 am

      Yea they tend to be very hesitant the later you start, but in your case there were no teeth anyway, so I totally understand. Just keep at it and explain why you’re doing it. That works for many kids as well. Thanks again.

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