Knowing how to brush toddler teeth is a fine balance between encouraging your child’s independence and self-care with making sure their smile is as healthy as possible.
When Should Toddlers Start Brushing Teeth?
If your toddler is eager to brush their teeth, feel free to let them! Set a 2-minute timer or turn on their favorite song to encourage them to know how long to brush. Toddler’s teeth need to be cleaned twice a day, just like adults.
All of that being said, no matter how well your toddler is brushing, you’ll still want to follow up behind them to make sure everything is clean. One of the most important tips for brushing toddlers’ teeth is allowing them to learn this self-care step with the proper amount of adult supervision. If they want to do it, then let them. Once they are finally old enough to tie their own shoes, you can usually allow them to brush 100% on their own. Until then, the best way to brush toddlers’ teeth is to have parents brush for them too.
How to Clean Toddlers’ Teeth
Your child’s baby (primary) teeth are very small, so make sure you select a proper toothbrush size. If it’s too large, it won’t be able to clean around the small spaces and narrow curves of their smile. To encourage your child to want to brush, involve them in the toothbrush selection process. Especially if fun characters or colors are involved!
Make a schedule to brush at least twice a day, or three if everyone is home during the daytime. Set a timer for two minutes and brush in small, circular motions on the outside of each tooth, inside of each tooth, and then on all of the chewing surfaces. Be sure to clean along the gumlines, where plaque tends to be heaviest.
If your child isn’t old enough to spit or rinse well, only use a rice-grain-sized smear of fluoride toothpaste. This will keep the dosage amount appropriate in case some is accidentally ingested. Once your toddler or preschooler can spit out any residue or rinse their mouth out with water effectively, progress to a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
You’ll also want to clean between their teeth every day since a toothbrush can’t reach those areas. Primary teeth can develop cavities that spread quite quickly, due to the density differences in those teeth. Since your toddler’s mouth is still quite small, the best way to do this is to use a disposable floss pick.
Tips for Brushing Toddlers’ Teeth
Sometimes toddlers tend to bite down on their parent’s fingers whenever they’re getting their teeth brushed. An easy solution is to have two toothbrushes, using the handle of one as a “prop” for your child to bite onto. Or you can take a stack of tongue depressors and tie them together with medical tape and use that instead. That way your toddler will bite on the prop while you still brush the other side of their smile.
Playing “dentist” on a stuffed animal (or on each other) is a great way to familiarize your toddler with toothbrushing. Have them brush a stuffed animal’s “teeth”-or if you’re brave, your own-and then turn around and have the toddler be the patient. This also works well when you’re planning an upcoming dental visit.
If there is any bleeding during brushing, it will most likely be from gingivitis. This infection is caused by plaque accumulating along the gumlines. Gentle, thorough brushing will usually reverse symptoms within two weeks.
Visit Our Pediatric Dentist for More Tips
During your child’s checkup, we’ll discuss how to brush toddler’s teeth and keep them healthy as your little one grows. If you’re wondering when should toddlers start brushing teeth, just follow their lead. Only make sure you’re still helping them brush for now, even if that means taking turns.
Visit our Vista pediatric dental office today for more tips on helping your child enjoy a lifetime of healthy smiles.