When to Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth (And How to Do It)

Armed with the best amber teething necklace and an arsenal of natural teething remedies, you know how to soothe a teething baby’s achy gums, but what happens when a pearly white finally emerges?! Do you know how and when to start brushing baby’s teeth?

In this post, we’ll answer:

  • When do babies get teeth?
  • What’s the best way to clean baby’s mouth?
  • How do you brush baby teeth?
  • What’s the best way to prevent cavities?

Caring for Newborn Gums—Is That Even a Thing?

If you’re thinking about when to start brushing baby’s teeth before baby even has teeth, good for you, mama! But you can breathe a sigh of relief, because you don’t really have to do anything at this point.

While it’s true that oral care encompasses the health of the entire mouth—not just the teeth—when baby is still all gums and only drinking milk, decay is very unlikely. 

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(image source)

For proactive moms: You can rub baby’s gums with a clean finger or a soft cloth after each feeding.

So When Do Babies Get Teeth?

Baby teeth can start to emerge around 6-10 months (but don’t worry if that first baby tooth takes a bit longer!).

Typically, baby teeth emerge in pairs, and the first two teeth to appear are usually the lower central incisors, followed by the upper central incisors (around 8-12 months).

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Read more about when babies get teeth.

When to Start Brushing Baby’s Teeth

So when to start brushing baby’s teeth? Here’s an easy answer: Start brushing baby’s teeth as soon as their first tooth makes its grand entrance. That may be right on the sixth-month mark or closer to the one-year mark—either way, it’s time to grab that natural toothbrush.

As soon as teeth appear in your baby’s mouth, it’s possible for your baby to develop cavities. It is important to keep your baby’s gums and teeth clean to prevent tooth decay, even in baby teeth. – American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD)

Keep in mind, some moms don’t brush teeth until baby has several teeth in his mouth, and this can be perfectly fine. Just keep your eye out for signs of decay (more on this below).

How to Brush Baby’s Teeth

Once you know when to start brushing baby’s teeth, it’s generally recommended that parents brush the tooth or teeth twice each day for two minutes at a time.

Here’s how:

  1. Wet a soft-sided, natural fiber toothbrush with a little bit of water.
  2. Gently brush all sides of teeth—front, back, and sides. (Note: No toothpaste is necessary, or recommended, until age 2 and fluoride is definitely not recommended.)
  3. Carefully massage gums around teeth with the toothbrush or a damp cloth.

The Best Baby Toothbrush

If you’re wondering when to start brushing baby’s teeth, you’re probably also curious about dental care options. Let’s break them down:

Finger vs. brush: Before baby has teeth, there is no need for a brush—a soft cloth (or even a clean finger!) will do. Once the teeth come in, a toothbrush is best. (If you opt for a finger brush, choose one made out of food-grade silicone.)

Size: Choose a brush with a very small head, designed for babies. Even brushes marked “for children” may be too big (and therefore uncomfortable) for a little baby.

Shape: Hard plastic toothbrushes can be dangerous for two reasons: the plastic (BPA!) and the shape. Look for a toothbrush that includes safety shields to prevent baby from grabbing the brush out of your hand, sticking it too far into her mouth, and choking.

Natural Toothpaste for Babies

We already know babies under the age of 2 shouldn’t use toothpaste, unless recommended by your dentist.

Once baby’s old enough, skip conventional toothpaste (here’s what I want everyone to know about toothpaste) and try sea salt or Bronner’s liquid soap instead. Oral Wellness has some great natural options for the whole family, too.

How to Prevent Cavities Naturally

Once baby has teeth, he is susceptible to tooth decay. And nearly 30 percent of children ages 2-5 have at least one cavity. That number jumps up to 51% for children ages 6-11. Yikes!

In addition to brushing regularly, there are plenty of ways to help prevent cavities naturally:

  • Eat a real food diet. Sugar and refined carbohydrates contribute to tooth decay.
  • Keep snacking to a minimum. Each time you consume food, you are increasing acid levels in the mouth, which can promote tooth decay. (Obviously, this isn’t applicable to newborns!)
  • Cell salts: Since teeth need minerals to be strong and decay-free, a broad-spectrum cell salt supplement can help to support good oral health. (Don’t administer without doctor or dentist approval.)
  • Cod liver oil: Dr. Weston A. Price found this medicinal fat that’s high in vitamin A & vitamin D helped to ward off dental decay in patients.
  • Oral probiotics: Our mouth, similar to our gut, has its own microbiome with good and bad bacteria. Studies show that an imbalance of oral bacteria can lead to tooth decay. You can replenish good flora with this supplement. (Again, get doctor’s approval!)
  • Tongue scraping: This ritual helps to reduce bacteria count in mouth and promotes a “clean mouth” feel.
  • Oil pulling: In one study using coconut oil, researchers found 50% decreases in gingival and plaque indices after four weeks. Learn how to practice oil pulling here. (Not recommended for children under 5.)

Signs of Tooth Decay

Though signs of tooth decay can vary from person to person, here are some things to keep an eye out for:

  • White spots mean enamel is starting to break down.
  • Light brown color, which can indicate an early cavity.
  • Dark brown or black color, which can indicate a more progressed cavity.
  • Pain in or around the tooth.
  • Sensitivity to food, particularly hot or cold food or beverages.

Could Your Child Be More Prone to Tooth Decay?

Some issues could lead to future dental problems or tooth decay.

These include:

  • Reflux: Children with GERD were nearly six times more likely to have substantial tooth decay.
  • Oral Thrush: Researchers say yeast can cause severe tooth decay in early childhood, because it works with an enzyme produced by the bacteria Streptococcus mutans—a bad bacteria that causes cavities.
  • Tongue and/or Lip Tie: If left untreated or treated late, milk can get caught between the teeth and the gums, leading tooth decay.
  • Mouth breathersPeople who sleep with their mouths open have more acid present in their mouths, which can contribute to tooth decay.
  • Antibiotic use: There is some research to suggest antibiotic use—particularly Amoxicillin, an antibiotic used to treat ear infections—may contribute to tooth decay.

When Should Your Child See a Dentist?

Experts recommend taking your child to the dentist about six months after the first tooth erupts. Other say to wait until your child has all of their baby teeth, usually around 3 years old. 

However, a child who sees a dentist regularly from an early age may be less apprehensive about visits. This also allows your dentist to ensure your child is meeting major dental milestones while also staying on top of any budding decay (the earlier it’s caught, the better!)

If you notice signs of tooth decay (outlined above) before that, you may want to find a holistic dentist in your area. 

Help! I Didn’t Brush My Children’s Teeth or Take Them To the Dentist

If your baby got teeth months (or even years) ago, and you still haven’t thought much about when to start brushing baby’s teeth, don’t stress. Some moms don’t do anything until baby has a full set of teeth. Other moms may wait until their child complains of an ache or pain. It’s never too late to establish good oral hygiene habits.

How About You?

When did you start brushing your baby’s teeth? Are you happy with your current oral care routine? Let us know in the comments below!

Mama Natural

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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  1. What are your thoughts on night nursing in relationship to tooth decay?

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