Open Wide

July 27, 2017
Open Wide

Dental hygiene is important to kids health, but brushing can be anything but easy.

Here are some tips to put the sparkle in their smile…


  • Starting at birth, bottles should NOT be given in the crib and babies should not be breastfeed continuously throughout the night.  When babies sleep with milk in their mouths, they are more prone to having dental issues
  • Water with fluoride, either from the tap or bottled, should be introduced at 6 months of age
  • Juice should be avoided
  • Teeth commonly first appear between 6 and 12 months
  • At 6 months, infants should begin having their teeth brushed before bed using infant toothbrushes (regular or finger)
  • At these ages, children may be hard to get to stay still.  A few tips…
    • Brush teeth wherever you can – the changing table, the highchair, even the couch!
    • Let children explore their toothbrush themselves.  They may not be brushing, but they are getting used to the feeling and will be more likely to give you a quick turn!
    • Use distraction.  Brushing while reading a book or playing with a toy can make it much easier for little ones
    • If they’ve fallen asleep after a feed, use a soft cloth the gently wipe their gums and/or teeth of the milky residue


At One Year____________________________

  • Children should begin having their teeth brushed twice a day
  • Continuing to avoid juice helps with overall dental hygiene
  • Replacing bottles with straw cups helps to avoid “milk mouth
  • At this age, children may need more distraction.  A few tips
    • Try singing a favorite song while you brush.  This can calm kids and make the time go faster
    • Let children put their hands on the toothbrush while you do the work
    • Take turns.  Let children brush for a few seconds and then take your turn.  The back and forth can make this a game and not a struggle
    • Let children imitate you brushing your teeth side by side.  You are a powerful role model (and making faces in the mirror is fun!)


After 18 Months ________________________

  • 10% of 2 year olds already have at least 1 cavity
  • Begin to use a fluoride toothpaste (amount of toothpaste should be the size of a grain of rice)
  • Visit a dentist between 18 months and 2 years for an initial exam and assessment
  • Getting to the dentist can be rough on children this age.  A few tips…
    • Practice playing dentist at home.  Prepare your children for what happens there and what things may feel like
    • Focus on the positive.  Don’t share scary dentist stories or fears with your child and keep things light
    • Set a calm tone.  When children are upset, it’s important to model being calm and collected.  Use soothing techniques like touch, song, counting or a special object/toy to keep children feeling safe and reassured



  • 28% of 3 year olds and 50% of 5 year olds have at least 1 cavity
  • Minimize exposure to sticky or gummy candies and treats
  • Continue to help children to brush (up until age 6)
  • Introduce flossing – especially for children with teeth close together
  • Toddlers are all about independence.  A few tips…
    • Try using an electric toothbrush.  Many children love the sound and the feeling and it helps them get used to the instruments used at the dentist
    • Let children choose a fun flavored toothpaste – like strawberry – to get them excited about brushing
    • Use a timer (on your phone or with a sand timer) to keep kids going.  Brushing until the sand is gone or the music goes off can help kids stay focused and have an accurate sense of the amount of brushing needed.


Check out more recommendations on tooth brushing from the American Academy of Pediatrics

Photo courtesy of