Healthy living

Brushing your child's teeth

Baby smiling , showing three baby teeth

Brushing your child’s teeth daily to remove plaque is important. Plaque is a soft, sticky, almost invisible layer of bacteria that forms on teeth every day.

Baby teeth are important. Read more about the importance of healthy baby teeth and gums.

When to start brushing your child’s teeth

It’s important to start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as they appear. This is typically around 6 months.

It’s good to start cleaning your child’s gums even before teeth erupt (come through). Use a soft damp cloth to gently wipe the gums and when a few teeth are present, replace the cloth with a toothbrush that has a small head and soft bristles.

For children under 17 months don’t use toothpaste when brushing their teeth.

Close view of a toothbrush head featuring a pea-sized portion of toothpasteMake toothbrushing a positive experience for both of you.

Start by choosing a time and place when your child is happy and content during the day and make it a fun ‘game’.

For children over 18 months and up to 5 years, use a small pea-sized amount of child strength fluoride toothpaste.

When children are 6 and over, normal strength toothpaste can be used. The fluoride in toothpaste will help prevent tooth decay. Children should spit out, and not swallow or rinse after brushing.

Should children brush their own teeth?

Woman holding a young girl's chin from behind while brushing the girl's bottom teeth.While children should be encouraged to brush their own teeth, they do not have the skill to use a toothbrush correctly until they are around 7 or 8 years old.

Until your child can use a toothbrush, it’s important to brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day – once in the morning and again before going to bed using a fluoride toothpaste as appropriate.

Choose a position which allows you to easily see inside your child’s mouth and is comfortable for both of you.

Standing or sitting slightly behind and to the side of your child with the head supported and tilted back slightly may make it easier. This way you will have more control and your child will feel completely secure.

How to brush your child’s teeth

Brush your child’s teeth by placing the tip of the toothbrush bristles towards the gum line and gently jiggling the brush, or moving it in tiny circles over the teeth and gums.

Repeat the same brushing method on the inside surfaces of all teeth. For the chewing surfaces, use a light backward and forward motion.

Remember plaque is soft, use the toothbrush gently as there is no need to scrub.

Toddler having her upper teeth brushed by an adult

Jiggle the toothbrush or move in tiny circles on the outside surfaces of the teeth and gums.

Toddler having the bottom inside surfaces of her teeth brushed by an adult

Repeat the same method on the inside surfaces of the teeth.

Toddler having the chewing surfaces of her teeth cleaned by an adult

Use a light backward and forward motion on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. 

Where to get help

Dental Health Services

You can also

  • See your dental health professional
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222

Remember

  • Always supervise toothbrushing so that your child develops the brushing skills and doesn’t swallow toothpaste.
  • Make toothbrushing a positive experience for both of you – be playful about the activity.
  • Brushing ‘every bit of every tooth’ helps remove plaque from your child’s teeth and reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Acknowledgements

Dental Health Services


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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