How to Clean a Toddlers Teeth

Before I had children, I have to admit to not quite understanding just how hard it is to clean a toddlers teeth. My advice to my patients is quite different now to what I was taught at dental school, so if you were one of my lecturers I’m sorry!


We all know that when brushing a toddlers teeth you have about 30 seconds before their mouth is clamped shut and a melt-down starts. With this in mind, lets look at the nitty- gritty of how to actually do it.
The most common place to see cavities in a young child is in the biting surface of the baby molars, so this is where I start. While in an adult I would never recommend a backwards and forwards scrubbing motion, it’s probably all you’ll manage to do here.
Next in line on the cavity front is upper front teeth, so this is where I go next. A soft circular motion is the way to go here, with the bristles slightly angled towards the gums. Boston will let me gently move his lip out of the way if I make silly enough noises, which can make getting the right spot easier.
Lower front teeth come next. There are large salivary glands under the tongue, so it’s unusual for us to see cavities in the lower front teeth. It is the most common place to collect tarter so these teeth are still important.
Finally, if your toddler isn’t trying to climb into the sink or eat the soap by this point, brush the sides of the molars. The reason I do this last is because decay on the smooth surface of baby teeth isn’t common.


If your toddler has gaps between their teeth wide enough to let a toothbrush through, lucky you! For the rest of us, the sooner we introduce flossing, the lower the risk for cavities.
The only way I can manage flossing is to get Boston to lie on my knee in a similar position to how I would see a patient. It took a ‘Curious George goes to the Dentist’ book to actually get him to co-operate the first time, but now he thinks its great fun. I also will admit to not flossing his teeth every night, but we do it as often as we can.


In this modern world that we live in, most people are fairly well educated about the importance of cleaning baby teeth. Unfortunately, sugar is the part we all struggle with, because its everywhere. So, to make a general and possibly very bold statement, I would have to say that from what I have seen, more cavities in baby teeth are ‘sticky-sweet food’ related than not. A good tip is a glass of water or milk after eating a treat, so the sugar doesn’t hang around too long.
The moral of the story here is just do your best, and if it doesn’t work try again tomorrow. Toddlers love to imitate, so cleaning your teeth together can sometimes be all that’s needed to get them started. All of this being said, attempting to clean a toddlers teeth is sometimes a fight even a hardened dental professional can’t win.
Note: As this is blog based purely on my own experiences as an Oral Health Therapist and mother, not on scientific research, I needed some input from my dental colleges who are also mummy’s. Special thanks to Carly, Aminta, Lauren, Kerrie and Renee for your help.