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Brushing children’s teeth: in pictures

0-8 years

About children’s teeth

Baby teeth can arrive in any order. All baby teeth usually arrive by three years. Start cleaning teeth as soon as they come through. Use a clean, damp face washer to clean baby gums and back and front of each tooth.

The 32 adult teeth replace baby teeth between the ages of 6 and 20 years. Supervise and help clean children’s teeth until 8 years. Brush teeth and gums twice a day, once in the morning and once at night before bed.

Brushing teeth: getting started

Under 18 months, don’t use toothpaste. From 18 months to 6 years, use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste. From 6 years, use a pea-sized amount of standard fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft small child’s toothbrush.

Sit or stand behind your child in a brightly lit place, ideally in front of a mirror. This lets your child see what you’re doing. It’s easier to sit toddlers on your lap.

Use your free hand to support your child’s chin. Ask her to open up and say ‘ah’. Check for any signs of decay, such as a white or brown line on the teeth close to the gums. Check for plaque build-up on teeth around the gum line.

Brushing teeth: steps

Using small circular motions, brush all sides of each tooth and the gums. Brush backwards and forwards on all chewing surfaces. Take the most care with the back teeth.

After you’ve finished brushing, your child should spit out any leftover toothpaste, but don’t rinse out the mouth. Rinse toothbrush, and put somewhere clean to dry.

Avoid giving your child sugary snacks or drinks, especially between meals. Avoid giving your child a bottle of milk, formula or juice in bed. Always take away bottles after feeding.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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