Many parents have questions about how to care for their child’s teeth.  For basic care tips, visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s Frequently Asked Questions. For ideas to help fit your child’s unique situation, see our tips below.

Daily tooth and mouth care

  • Start cleaning your infant’s gums with a soft baby toothbrush or cloth and water.
  • Begin brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste when your child’s teeth begin to come in.
  • Use a very thin smear of toothpaste on the toothbrush.
  • When you are away from home, rinse your child’s mouth with water after meals, snacks and giving medicine.
  • If your child wants to brush, make sure you do a thorough cleaning at the end of the day. After your child brushes, you “check” with the toothbrush and finish with a thorough cleaning.


Challenges with brushing

  • Brushing does not have to happen in the bathroom-try your child’s room or other spaces.
  • Brush with your child’s head in your lap or have your child lie on a bed or sofa (helps you see the teeth better and may make it easier for your child to hold still and keep their mouth open).
  • Keep your child occupied as you brush. Give your child something to hold while you brush, have your child brush your teeth as you brush theirs, sing a song while brushing, or let your child watch in the mirror.
  • If your child is sensitive to toothpaste, dip the toothbrush (or cloth or cotton swab) into fluoride mouth rinse and use that instead.
  • For children who might gag, try letting your child get used to a toothbrush slowly.  Let your child “teeth” or chew on a toothbrush or NUK toothbrush trainer for a few weeks to get used to the feel of it in their mouth.  Then slowly take over and work toward the actual brushing.
  • If your child cannot spit try wiping their mouth with a cloth after brushing.
  • Ask for professional help to decrease mouth sensitivity and increase tolerance.
  • Find more dental care tips from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

Healthy Smiles for Autism: Dental Guide and Tips for Children with Autism Spectrum DisorderThe National Museum of Dentistry has created a new resource to help parents of children with autism spectrum disorders succeed in teaching good oral healthcare. Healthy Smiles for Autism (PDF) is available for free download.

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