My 1-Year-Old Will Not Let Me Brush His Teeth – What Should I Do?

Brushing your baby’s teeth should begin with routine gum cleaning even before the first pearly white tooth cuts through. Establishing a habitual routine of brushing teeth at least twice a day, every day is the foundation of good dental hygiene.

Brushing your little one’s teeth can be fun and rewarding, but only if your bundle of love enjoys it too.

Sadly, many one-year-olds resist this twice-daily routine, and parents don’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about.

Many parents believe that you must have teeth to brush; otherwise, the exercise is all in vain.

When you first notice your baby’s front bottom teeth cutting through, you may only then begin thinking about routinely brushing your baby’s teeth.

Brushing a one-year-old’s teeth is not the same as brushing your own “adult” teeth, and too many parents get it all wrong at the beginning.

This leads to your little one not liking the experience.

Establishing good baby oral hygiene is an art that every parent must master early. Let’s brush through this important lifelong habit and find out how to get it right from the very beginning.

Take care of your baby’s gums

Oral hygiene should be included early in your baby’s daily cleaning and grooming sessions.

Milk and purified solids settle into the reaches of the gums, which create a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria.

You may sometimes notice white speckles on your baby’s gums and tongue. This is milk residue and, if left unchecked, can get really nasty.

You can begin cleaning your baby’s gums from as early as a few days old, developing into a daily routine.

Simply wrap a piece of soft medical gauze over your index finger and gently wipe your baby’s gums.

Your little one has not yet mastered the motor skills to fully control tongue and lip movements which is evident in the amount of drooling that occurs when teething starts.

The onset of teething is the perfect time to include oral care as a minimum twice-daily grooming routine.

This sets the stage for brushing teeth because, by the time those pearly whites begin cutting through, you have already established the habit of regular oral care.

Teething is a golden opportunity to teach oral hygiene

A one-year-old girl is using a teething toy to help with her tooth eruption discomfort

What happens when teething starts? Parents pull out all the stops to try and control those itchy gums.

Everything from gripe water to cold latex teething rings to teething powders is used, yet parents seldom use a baby toothbrush, why?

From my perspective, as a mom of two adorable kids, I’d like you to think about the psychological advantage of using a baby toothbrush to soothe those sore, itchy, irritating gums at the time when you would normally brush your little one’s teeth?

Your baby will see a toothbrush as an object that provides relief and will become very familiar with the different parts of the toothbrush.

Chewing on the bristles and soft handle adds to the connection your little one will develop to that brightly colored cartoon character toothbrush.

Be sure to clean the toothbrush properly after every use.

You can use baking soda to clean the bristles, and a thorough rinse will ensure your baby’s toothbrush is always clean and ready for use.

Establishing an early connection to a toothbrush (without toothpaste) is a great stride in the right direction.

Interestingly, a report released by the U.S. CDC states that 80% of children start brushing their teeth later than they should.

Children should start brushing their teeth with the help of mom or dad from the time the first tooth breaks through, yet most children only start from the age of two or three.

Brushing your one-year-old’s teeth

Mom is brushing her one-year-old daughters teeth during her night routine

Assuming that you have been cleaning your baby’s gums at least twice a day from about six months old, at the age of 12 months, this should already be an established daily routine.

Using a toothbrush with toothpaste from the first sign of a tooth is not necessary, and it may cause your little one to pull back from having their teeth brushed.

Your baby’s first birthday is an ideal time for a first dental check-up. On your visit to the dentist, you will be able to ask questions about how best to take care of your little one’s new teeth.

Using toothpaste on your baby’s already familiar toothbrush is where many parents get it wrong.

More toothpaste doesn’t mean cleaner teeth, and parents may tend to use too much for their little ones.

At the age of one, your baby has not mastered the art of spitting, and swallowing too much toothpaste is not very healthy for babies.

Until your little one has learned to spit, it’s best to brush their teeth only using a wet toothbrush.

The brushing motion will clean away any plaque build-up on the teeth and prevent cavities from developing.

Here are a few basic ideas that may help:

  1. Make brushing teeth a fun activity, and lead your little one on by brushing your teeth at the same time. Children love to mimic and will follow your cue, but you’ll have to help them along and let them watch you brush your own teeth. Try humming your little one’s favorite nursery rhyme while you brush your teeth and pull nice funny faces to keep the interest.
  2. Get your little one involved in decision-making. Not when to brush teeth but have a few baby toothbrushes for your baby to choose from.
  3. You may want to have a separate toothbrush to brush your little one’s toy’s teeth before you both brush your own. Talk to your baby about how important it is to have clean teeth and how much their toys love getting their teeth cleaned.
  4. Have an incentive like reading a fairy tale afterward or cuddling up with you and their pick of a favorite toy.
  5. If all these ideas fall flat, revert back to cleaning your little one’s teeth with gauze and try again. Remain persistent in a positive fun way, and always compliment your little one on how shiny and bright their teeth look.
  6. You should try and brush your little one’s teeth after the last evening feed because it gets rid of the residue milk that becomes a breeding ground for bacteria throughout the night.
  7. For children under the age of three, using about the size of a grain of rice of baby fluoride toothpaste will help prevent cavities, and if your little one does swallow this small amount, it won’t do any harm.

As a parent, you need to lead by example. Make brushing teeth a fun daily joint activity. This is a critical foundation to ensure good oral hygiene for life.

As they are often called, baby teeth or milk teeth play a vital role in guiding the permanent teeth into the proper position, stressing the importance of having healthy teeth from the get-go.

The early loss of baby teeth may lead to misaligned permanent teeth that may require braces to correct the alignment.

Brushing teeth is non-negotiable

Yes, brushing teeth is a non-negotiable daily activity, and parents must persevere even under the most trying circumstances.

Toddlers change their minds at short notice, and what was once fun is no longer considered fun.

Brushing teeth can be boring, especially if it happens twice a day, every single day.

Here are some ideas that work to keep the oral hygiene train on the tracks to a lifelong good habit:

  1. Use a mirror and stand or sit behind your little one, so you are visible in the mirror. Then, let your little one lean up against you while you brush their teeth. You can sing a cute nursery rhyme about brushing teeth in the process. Your little one will soon realize that the song’s length is how long it takes to brush teeth, which will sharpen their awareness of time.
  2. For toddlers and older kids, control is important, so give your little one space to practice brushing their own teeth first before you check, praise, and finish the task properly. Be sure to talk to your child about what to pay attention to next time.
  3. Firm pressure is an aid to calm kids that show sensitivity to brushing teeth. Use your free hand to firmly hold your child’s shoulder or chin while brushing their teeth. While your child brushes in front of the mirror, you can use your hands to put a bit of pressure on both shoulders. It’s important that your little one likes the pressure you apply. As an alternative, your little one may want to hold a soft squeezy toy as a means to redirect sensations.
  4. The teeth brushing routine must be consistent as consistency breeds compliance. Give your child between one and three countdown warnings, so they are not simply dragged away from an activity to go and brush their teeth. These warnings work on the same principle as the wind-down time before bedtime.


Should I brush my infant’s gums?

There is no need to begin using a toothbrush or toothpaste until your little one’s teeth start to show.

A toothbrush helps clean the gum area around the teeth and is only essential when teeth are visible.

However, cleaning your baby’s gums daily from a few days old is important from an oral hygiene perspective, and it also helps to create a positive habit of brushing your teeth when the time comes.

What should I do if my little one doesn’t like the taste of toothpaste?

Don’t fret about toothpaste too much. What’s essential is the brushing action to get rid of plaque, and a wet toothbrush does the job just as well.

Many parents tend to overload the toothbrush with toothpaste when only a tiny rice grain size of toothpaste is needed.

Baby toothpaste comes in different flavors, and you can try and “flavor” the bristles of the toothbrush with a tiny bit of toothpaste to start with.

Is brushing my teeth when I brush my little one’s teeth really necessary?

Yes, yes, yes. Children like to mimic mom and dad with just about everything, and seeing you brush your own teeth will motivate your little one to mimic your good oral hygiene habit.

Besides, you will have to teach your little one to spit out the toothpaste, and what better way than to see you doing it?


Teaching your little one to brush teeth is a long slow process that takes years to perfect.

Making your little one aware of how vital clean teeth are from a very early age will set a good foundation for continued good oral hygiene.

Parents must lead by example to turn brushing teeth into a twice-daily habit.

This won’t reduce dentist visits as regular check-ups remain essential, but it will limit your dentist from having to fix what poorly executed daily brushing has caused.

Start with a baby toothbrush as soon as you see the first tooth breakthrough, and get creative in making brushing teeth fun for your little one.

But remember, good oral hygiene starts with regularly cleaning your toothless baby’s gums.

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Hi! I'm Jennely. My hands and mind can't be still; neither can my three-year-old. So I'm either chasing him or my next project. I like to work smarter, not harder. This is why I write on topics that will help parents solve problems and enjoy precious moments with their little ones.

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