basic tooth care for preschoolers

Questions about caring for your preschooler's teeth? It can be a breeze if you follow these dentist recommended tips to keep them pearly white.



  • Get an Early Start
    Establish a regular tooth care regimen even before your child's first tooth appears! You can begin by wiping your baby's gums and erupting teeth with a wet cloth or gauze after meals. This will help remove food particles and bacteria from the erupting teeth and gums.

  • Begin Brushing
    You should begin brushing your child's teeth between 12 to 18 months, Use a soft child-sized tooth brush and water to start, being sure to get into the back of the mouth where food can lodge in molars.

  • Introducing Toothpaste
    After age 3, you can add a pea-sized bit of fluoride-enriched toothpaste to your routine. It's important to show your child how to spit out toothpaste as well, rather than allowing them to swallow. Giving your child a small sip of water between brushing and showing her how to swish water in her mouth will encourage her to spit out the toothpaste.

  • Quality Over Quantity
    Ideally you want to spend about three minutes brushing, which may not be easy with younger preschoolers. "When it comes to brushing your child's teeth," Dr. Grossman says, "quality is more important than quantity. Just do the best brushing you can. The most important thing is getting to all the tooth surfaces, especially the back teeth."

  • Let Them Do the Work
    Sometime after age 4, your child can begin brushing her own teeth with supervision. Watch closely as she brushes and encourage her to thoroughly brush those tough-to-reach back teeth. Dentists suggest that parents supervise their child's brushing technique up until the age of 8.


  • Brush, Brush, Brush
    Brushing three times a day is best, but your child should at least brush in the morning and at bedtime. Brushing right before bed is especially important because at night there is no saliva or jaw movements to help sweep away food particles.

  • Check When She's Done
    Dr. Grossman advises that parents inspect their children's teeth after bedtime brushing to ensure they have removed all particles. If necessary, parents may need to follow up brush those areas not thoroughly cleaned.

  • Teach Proper Technique
    When your child brushes, make sure that she uses the technique for brushing, being certain to use up and down, and circular strokes that focus on the tooth and gum line, as well as getting into hard to reach back teeth. Your child should spend at least three minutes brushing. Dr. Grossman suggests using an egg timer to help establish the proper amount of brushing time. To help make her a more thorough brusher, point out any spots you think she missed.


Flossing is an important part of your child's dental hygiene routine, too. Dr. Hanna recommends that parents begin flossing their child's teeth as soon the first teeth touch each other, which could be as early as age 1 or 2. By age 6 or 7, kids can begin flossing on their own, but just be certain that they are using the proper technique. You can ask a dentist during a regular check up to show older children the proper way to floss their teeth.


Make her daily brushing routine fun and rewarding with these simple tips:
  • Choose toothpaste and dental rinses in flavors designed to be more appealing to kids.

  • Keep a variety of toothbrushes on hand so that your child can choose each day which one she wants to use. Or have a different toothbrush for each time throughout the day she has to brush. Other clever tips include investing in an inexpensive electric children's toothbrush or animal-shaped floss holders.

  • Create a reward system for daily brushing success, especially if your child is just beginning to brush on his own. Dr. Hanna suggests creating a reward chart. Pick out a calendar at the store with your child, and add a star for each day he brushes on his own, awarding a star for morning and evening brushing.

Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see's Terms of Use.

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