Brushing & Flossing

Cleaning an Infant’s Gums

Beginning with several days after birth, wipe the infant’s gum with a soft wet rag or gauze after each feeding to remove residual milk from the tissues and erupting teeth.


As soon as the baby’s first teeth erupt, use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small pea-size amount of fluoride toothpaste, unless the child is under the age of 3. If a child is younger than age 3, parents should clean their child’s teeth with water or fluoride-free training toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Parents should always supervise brushing and touch up for their child, especially during the night time brushing, as most cavities occur while the child is asleep. Make sure children do not swallow excess toothpaste as excessive fluoride intake can cause an upset stomach and white lines and spots on the permanent dentition called ‘fluorosis.’

When you brush your child’s teeth, move the brush in small circular motions to reach food particles that may be under the gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle towards the gum line and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth and the surface of each tooth. It will take you 2-3 minutes to thoroughly brush your child’s teeth. Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth and the outside, inside and chewing surface of all of the front and back teeth. Brush your child’s tongue before you have your child rinse. It is often much easier to brush your child teeth and easier for you to see if you have the child lie on the floor with his/her head in your lap.

Brush your child’s teeth three times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque:

  • In the morning after breakfast
  • After lunch or right after school
  • After dinner or at bedtime

As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one. Do not swallow any toothpaste; rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after you finish brushing. It is important to carefully floss and brush daily for optimal oral hygiene.


For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, dental floss is used to remove food particles and plaque. Dental floss is a thin thread of waxed nylon that is used to reach below the gum line and clean between teeth. It is very important to floss between your child’s teeth every day.

Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around your middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around your fingers as you go, so that you have used the floss from beginning to end when you finish. Floss behind all of your child’s back teeth. Many children have spaces between their teeth and therefore do not need to be flossed in those areas. Your pediatric dentist can best advise you on where to concentrate your flossing efforts.

When you first begin flossing your child’s teeth, the gums may bleed a little or your child may complain that flossing is uncomfortable. This is normal as the food and bacteria lodged between the teeth cause the gums to be inflamed and bleed easily. A week of adequate flossing and removal of that debris will stop the bleeding so do not be alarmed and continue flossing. If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, let a staff member know at your next appointment.