My 1-year-old baby has 8 teeth and enjoys eating chocolate very much. Some of my relatives have suggested that I brush her teeth with a baby toothbrush, but I am confused about whether a child of this age needs to have their teeth brushed or not.

If it is required, how am I to brush her teeth when she bites anything that she finds in her mouth. If I forcibly brush her teeth, will she spit out?

  • 3
    A little bit of chocolate as a treat is OK, but on the sheet we recently received from a pediatric dentist we were explictly warned to stay away from sugary foods on a regular basis.
    – justkt
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 16:07

3 Answers 3


Our dentist recommends that brushing starts as soon as solid food is introduced.

There are two types of baby toothbrushes: those that you slip over a finger (better for when they don't have teeth, 'cause they're ideal for gums) and specially-sized infant toothbrushes with handles appropriately designed for small hands to grip. There's also infant toothpaste that's fluoride-free (when they aren't ready to rinse & spit, this is critical) that will help you clean their teeth. It usually comes in child-approved (at least in this house!) fruit flavors.

To brush her teeth, put a small amount on the brush and brush her teeth gently. It's okay if she spits out the toothpaste, it's okay if she swallows it (so long as it's fluoride-free); the important thing here is to (a) get her used to the routine and procedure and (b) clean what you can of her tooth and gum surfaces. If she bites the toothbrush, just remind her gently not to do that and keep working on it. She'll figure it out and hopefully will come to see it as a pleasant routine.

To add a bit of incentive for my two, we allowed them time to brush themselves, and then followed up with a bit of parental tooth-brushing backup. And since we're on well water here, we have a very tasty fluoride supplement that they get to take after brushing their teeth; acts as a little treat for them.

As for flossing, we use the little individual child flossers. Our dentist says that flossing is a good habit to get into but not essential until their teeth get pressed closer together, so the 5-yr-old is a regular flosser and the 2-yr-old is a recreational flosser. :)

  • 1
    According to the pediatric dentist who saw my daughter yesterday at 1 yo. flourite-free toothpaste is not required. Brushing with just water works just as well.
    – justkt
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 16:06
  • 1
    +1 for allowing the child to brush first and having "parental tooth-brushing backup". That's the way we do it too and I think it's a very good way to get the children to know what to do later.
    – Friederike
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 14:16

Toddlers like to do what their parents do. So when it is time to brush the baby's teeth, also brush your own. Put toothpaste on her brush, give it to her, and get to work with your own brush on your own mouth. Show the gestures you are making. Encourage her to do just as you are doing - exaggerate your movements as you do the back, the front, the back on the other side, and so on.

Some parents also want to have a go at the teeth themselves to be sure they're really clean. If you're one of them, I suggest asking "let me check" and giving a bit of a brush everywhere in turn saying "yes, this looks clean, and this looks clean" and when you're done you can announce that "we both have a clean mouth now!"

A soft toothbrush, a fluoride-free toothpaste, and you modelling gentle movements (not wild scrubbing and jabbing) should ensure that brushing isn't actively damaging. That and making it a habit from the earliest age is probably all you need.

  • 1
    +1 for brushing your teeth with your toddler. I also let my toddler "brush" my teeth and then I brush hers, then I let her "brush" her own (she mostly bites the brush).
    – justkt
    Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 16:06
  • I think this is the best answer because opposite what the title says, I'm pretty sure the question was "How do I get my child to let me brush his teeth?". This is the easy answer: make it fun and do it together. This approach works very often, be it holding the breath under water, patching a wound or washing hair. (Although, when mommy starts to cry when you try to show that a haircut doesn't hurt you probably should reconsider ;-)
    – halirutan
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 1:36

A gum massager has worked well for getting our kids accustomed to the idea of a toothbrush. It ends up working like halfway between a pacifier and a toothbrush:

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When my kids were around 12 months we considered that (plus as-needed use of a finger brush like Valkyrie mentioned) was sufficient. She can bite that to her heart's content and it'll just help in the cleaning. :-)

Both my kids are a bit resistive about having their teeth brushed for them, and with my son especially it was a challenge to get him to fully brush all his teeth himself. Both kids enjoy the children's toothpaste a bit too much, and will eat it straight from the tube if they're not being monitored! So we found ourselves force-brushing more often than not, and it was just unpleasant for everyone all around. The trick we found solved it was to get a gentle electric toothbrush, which added enough "fun" to get him to willingly brush each of his teeth.

With my daughter, the thing that makes it fun for her is to tell her about different fruits that are "stuck" in her teeth, and that require certain techniques and numbers of strokes to get them out. Probably lots of variations on this idea, to tailor to your child's interests...

Basically, my theory is to keep it fun so they associate teeth brushing with positive experiences, and thus will be more self-motivated to manage the task at an earlier age.

  • 1
    the gentle electric tooth brush is a genius idea! It makes perfect sense to me why that may be okay with a one year old compared to a traditional tooth brush. Thanks for the tip! You may have saved me. My one year old hates when I brush her teeth, like you said force brushing basically all the time. I hope this new trick helps!!
    – user16466
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 6:31

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