Looking after children’s teeth – children up to age 3

In a series of blogs, Laura Leonard, our hygienist, shares her advice about caring for your children’s teeth.  In this article, we share advice for under 3s.

Children up to age 3:

Toothbrushing:  Start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears (usually around 6 months, can be earlier or later).  Try and brush their teeth last thing at night and one other time during the day (usually morning) for 2 minutes.  Use a manual toothbrush with a small head and apply a smear of fluoride toothpaste (1000-1350ppm – check the label on the tube or pump for the amount of fluoride).  Using a circular motion brush the tooth surface and brush gently onto the gum. Most children’s toothbrushes will be soft and should be replaced every 3 months, or sooner if the brush start splaying, this usually happens when toothbrushes are chewed.  After brushing encourage your child to spit out any excess toothpaste rather than rinsing with water, this will allow the fluoride to stay in contact with the tooth surface for as long as possible.  Make sure they don’t eat or lick the paste from the tube.

At this age it is better for brushing to be assisted by a parent or carer, your child will probably want to start doing this by themselves, let them have a go, and then you can finish off for them.  To help them, guide their hand so they can feel the correct motion and use a mirror so they can see where their brush is cleaning.  Try and make tooth brushing fun, use an egg timer or brushing timer apps available with music and fun brushing challenges.  Reward sticker charts can encourage brushing.

Don’t let your child run around with a toothbrush in their mouth as they may have an accident and hurt themselves

Food and Drink:  From 6 months, encourage your infant to drink from a free flow cup and discourage using a bottle by age 1.  Water and milk are the best drinks for your child.  When weaning, don’t add sugar to food, try sweeter vegetables such as carrots, parsnip and sweet potato as an alternative.  Some snacks such as raisins can be high in sugar and because of their consistency will stick to the teeth meaning the tooth surface will be exposed to these sugars for a longer period of time.  Tooth friendly snacks include: plain yoghurt, or yoghurt mixed with unsweetened fruit puree or chopped fruit, hard-boiled eggs, cubes of cheese, fresh fruit, raw or cooked vegetables, hummus and pitta bread, and cream cheese with mini-breadsticks.

Visiting the dentist:  We like to see children when their first milk teeth appear, bring them along with you to your check-ups, they will become familiar with the environment, smells and sounds, they get to meet us, we always make the visits fun, this stops them worrying and of course the anticipated sticker!  Even your child opening their mouth to let us have a look is practice for the future. We can discuss how to prevent problems with your child’s teeth to make sure they stay trouble free. 


Laura Leonard

Dental Hygienist GDC Reg 6419

Diploma in Dental Hygiene, Member of the British Society of Dental Hygiene and Therapy

Arden House Dental and Cosmetic Clinic


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