Baby-Teeth Basics

How to Brush Their Teeth

Get into the routine of cleaning your child's teeth twice a day -- once after breakfast and again before she goes to bed. If she doesn't have teeth yet (some kids get their first one as late as 17 months), wrap a wet washcloth around your finger and gently wipe her gums. This removes plaque and helps her adjust to the idea of having something inside her mouth. Once her teeth poke through, switch to an infant toothbrush. Dip it in water, but hold the fluoride toothpaste until she turns 2.

Need ideas for getting your child to cooperate? Be creative. Let her pick out a toothbrush at the drugstore. Sing a song to distract her from the task. Or ask if she wants to "brush" by herself first. "Letting your child play with the brush for a while makes it seem like a game to her, so she's more willing to let you take over," says Philip Hunke, DDS, president of the AAPD. Aim to spend a full minute cleaning the inside and outside surfaces of her teeth and gums.

Believe it or not, you should start flossing your child's teeth too. Start as soon as two of her teeth touch each other. Back molars are the hardest to reach -- and at the greatest risk for decay.

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