Getting young kids to brush their teeth


When it comes to the routine of brushing babies’ and toddlers’ teeth it can be super frustrating if they’re not willing to comply. But it’s important not to avoid it even if it’s difficult! We’ve generally had a relatively easy road to toothbrushing (so far… touch wood) and even though Miss E is only 2 years old, she has already started to remind us to brush her teeth if we happen to forget.

A while back Colgate sent me out a pack to take a look at with some information around brushing children’s teeth that went a bit more in-depth than Plunket’s advice. Here’s what I found out.


Some key things to know about children’s teeth
  • You should start brushing as soon as teeth appear with a small soft brush. It’s a good idea to even ‘practice’ before then gently on their gums so they get used to the idea of it.
  • You can introduce the idea of flossing gently as soon as there are two teeth in contact.
  • Diet is just as important as cleaning in preventing tooth decay (keep sugar-laden foods and drinks as treats).
  • Dental care is free for children under 18 years of age.
  • It’s important not to bottle feed fruit drinks or sweetened drinks as this causes acid attacks on teeth.
  • Water, breastmilk or formula are the best options for drinks.
  • It’s recommended to use 1000ppm (parts per million) fluoride toothpaste.


First teeth typically erupt around 6 months of age. Children won’t be able to brush their own teeth so you will need to do it twice a day in the morning after breakfast and in the evening before bed time. Use a small smear of toothpaste on a small, soft bristled toothbrush as soon as teeth appear.

We always brushed Miss E’s teeth properly first, then let her hold the toothbrush to ‘have a go’ (Colgate’s advice was to do this the other way around, but we found she’d just suck all the toothpaste off if you didn’t get in there quickly and do it first! I’m guessing this changes later when they’re older and stop trying to eat it…).

AGE 3-4

Your child can start learning to brush their own teeth properly. We haven’t reached this age yet but Miss E already knows to ‘say cheese’ and to ‘say aaaahhh’, and we talk her through brushing ‘at the front’, ‘at the sides’, ‘on the inside’, ‘the top’, ‘the bottom’ and ‘the back’.


They may begin to lose their baby teeth.


New, permanent molars may begin to erupt at this time. Ensure that brushing happens all the way to the back and increase the toothpaste to a pea-size amount; continue to help them with it until they are 8-9 years of age.

Tips for brushing

When getting kids to floss, use waxed floss tied in a circle. Have your child lie down, open wide and floss between all teeth that are touching. For upper teeth have them extend their head right back.

Rather than working the entire brush in a see-sawing motion along all the teeth, wiggle it gently back and forth repeating for each tooth (I’m now having receding gums issues as an adult because I’ve always done the press hard/see-saw brush which the dentist recently told me off for, so this is important!). Brush inside each tooth using the same wiggling technique. Brush the chewing surfaces using a forward/backward motion. Use the tip of the brush behind each front tooth at the top and bottom.

Gently brush the tongue and gum line as well (I didn’t know this either…).

How do you get your kids to brush and floss regularly? If you’ve got any more tips, comment and let me know below – I’d love to hear them!


Tips, toothpaste and toothbrush gifted by Colgate for review

Images / NZ Real Health

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