Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth

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Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth

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Start caring for your child's mouth and teeth before you see the first baby (primary) tooth. Some tips on dental care for a child include the following:

  • Clean your baby's mouth and gums with a soft cloth or piece of gauze before their first tooth comes in. When your baby's teeth come in, continue cleaning your baby's first teeth with a clean piece of gauze, a face cloth, or a soft-bristled baby toothbrush at least once a day.1 You may use one of the commercial "baby toothpastes" available for infants who are at least 5 months old. "Baby toothpastes" do not contain fluoride.
  • Brush your child’s teeth once or twice a day. It’s dangerous if your child swallows too much fluoride. When your doctor or dentist says it's okay, use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and have your child spit out extra toothpaste. Keep all fluoride products, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, away from your child. Too much fluoride may be toxic and can stain a child’s teeth.
  • Your child can learn how to brush his or her own teeth at about 3 years of age and should be brushing his or her own teeth morning and night by age 4, although parents should supervise and check for proper cleaning.
  • Flossing is an important part of good dental health. Start flossing your child's teeth when he or she has teeth that touch each other. Talk with your dentist about the right timing and technique to floss your child's teeth and to teach your child to floss. Plastic flossing tools may be helpful.
  • From time to time, you may want to use disclosing tablets. Disclosing tablets are chewable tablets that colour any plaque that remains after brushing. You can get these tablets at most drugstores.
  • If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash. Do not give your child a mouthwash that contains alcohol. The alcohol can be harmful if swallowed.



  1. Health Canada (2009). Caring for your teeth and mouth: Children. Available online:


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Andrew Swan, MD, CCFP, FCFP - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Arden Christen, DDS, MSD, MA, FACD - Dentistry
Last Revised June 7, 2011

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