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How to clean your toddler’s teeth

Getting a toddler into a good dental routine is no small ask. So we spoke to Christina Rowe, NHS dentist, for her top tips for good teeth-cleaning habits. Here’s her advice…

How often should my little one brush her teeth? 

“Last thing at night and one other time throughout the day – morning is usually convenient. It’s nice for mum or dad to brush their teeth at the same time – an experience shared!”

Should I buy a special toothbrush for my toddler? 

“Choose a small brush with a soft head so it’s easy for you and your little one to manoeuvre.”

How much toothpaste should I use? I’m never entirely sure… 

“Up to the age of 3 a smear of toothpaste is fine and for ages 3-6 a pea sized blob. The current recommendation from the Department Of Health is that under threes should use a lower fluoride toothpaste with a minimum of 1000ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. From 3-6 years it should be between 1350-1500ppm.” 

How long should my child to brush for? 

“2 minutes is ideal. An egg timer or stopwatch can help, with a big smile from mum when the 2 minutes is up! Try to supervise up until the age of 7 to make sure they’re getting into good habits for later on in life.”

Any brushing tips? 

“Yes, use small, gentle circular movements. And spit don’t rinse! Rinsing with water just washes the fluoride away. Also try not to let your little one eat or swallow toothpaste (easier said than done sometimes!)” Tina Toddlers teeth

How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush? 

“Every three months is about right but if the bristles start splaying outwards replace it sooner.”

When should I start taking my baby to the dentist?

“It’s always a good idea to bring baby along with you for your appointment so it feels familiar when it’s their turn. Ideally a child would be seen by a dentist by the age of 1year or within six months of their first tooth appearing and remember NHS dental treatment is free for everyone under 18.”

How else can I look after my toddler’s teeth? 

“Avoid lots of flavoured milk or sugary, fizzy drinks – water is the perfect choice between meals and at bedtime – and if possible avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes after toothbrushing so the fluoride is not diluted or rinsed away. And try to make sure that any medication is sugar-free.”

Any tips for a toddler who point blank refuses to play ball? 

“Absolutely! Some of the mums who bring their little ones in swear by some of these tactics: singing “brush, brush, brush your teeth” to the tune of “row, row, row your boat”; positioning little ones in front of a mirror so they can see themselves at work; letting little ones take the lead and doing their own brushing first; cleaning teeth in the bath; using vibrating toothbrushes (particularly ones with characters kids love) or filling in a toothbrushing star chart.”

Do you have any top tips for getting reluctant nippers into good dental habits? Post a comment and join the convo!

For baby’s first toothbrush (and baby’s first car seatpushchair and highchair) visit baby specialist Kiddicare.