Adorable kid brushing teeth with Schmidt's Kids Toothpaste in Mint+Berry

Photo courtesy of Schmidt’s

Most of us have vague memories of our baby teeth”. Perhaps you had a loose one yanked out with a piece of string, or maybe you placed your liberated teeth under your pillow in anticipation of the tooth fairy (my story involved a silk pouch and handwritten note in exchange for a gold coin). But for most of us, it’s hard to remember exactly when and how we got our adult teeth. When do kids start brushing their own teeth? Is using a pea sized amount” of toothpaste really ideal? It’s important to treat these key milestones in a child’s development consciously, and it’s also an opportunity to set children up for a lifetime of good dental hygiene. We spoke to Dr. Rupin Malhotra and Dr. Rafay Hussain, founders of Brooklyn-based pediatric dental practice Bitesize, to get a handy timeline/​cheat sheet to help see you through this time in your child’s life. 

Teething & Timing 

Teething begins around age one, and can be quite uncomfortable for some children. Low-grade fevers are a common symptom. Some children also get softer stools or diarrhea and diaper rash because they swallow a lot of the saliva generated from teething. Most children will have a full set of primary teeth (20 in total; 10 on the top and 10 on the bottom) by age three. But generally speaking, we are more concerned that the teeth are coming in the correct sequence rather than how fast or slow they are coming in. Most kids will lose their first primary tooth at age six, and they will continue to lose their remaining primary teeth until around 12.”

Primary Teeth Matter

Given that primary (aka baby, milk, or deciduous) teeth are not sticking around, are they important? The answer is, yes. They serve so many essential roles and play a big part in your child’s oral health and development. Primary teeth form in the womb, and when a baby is born, these teeth are already waiting under the gums. One of the most crucial functions of primary teeth is to serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. They save specific spots for their grown-up counterparts and act as a guide for them to come in properly. They also encourage jaw, muscle, and facial development. Primary teeth allow children to start chewing food! Being able to chew correctly goes a long way in supporting good nutrition. Lastly, they are crucial for speech development. Once baby teeth fall out, if your child’s articulation does change (a lisp or hissing sound is pretty common when the front teeth fall out), it’s usually temporary and doesn’t become an ingrained habit. Losing their first tooth should be a fun milestone for a child. We encourage children to wiggle the loose teeth they have to encourage them to exfoliate.”

Brushing & Flossing 

When your child’s first tooth erupts, it’s time to start brushing twice a day. When any two teeth are touching, add flossing once daily to the mix. It’s recommended that parents brush their child’s teeth for them until they have the coordination to do it on their own, usually around age five or six. However, we do encourage you to let your kid have a turn brushing their teeth so they can learn the technique, and then you can just go over any spots they miss.” 


To get started, you’ll need a soft-bristled, infant-sized toothbrush. Squeeze a tiny smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) onto the toothbrush. You’ll increase this to a pea-sized amount at the age of three. Every morning and evening, gently brush the front, back and sides of each of your baby’s teeth for about two minutes. If they’re okay with it, you can also quickly brush their tongue, as it tends to harbor bacteria that cause bad breath. Since you’re only using a little bit of toothpaste, there’s no need to have them spit or rinse out their mouth. There will be good days and bad days when it comes to brushing. Think of it like changing a diaper; even if your baby is being fussy, it still needs to get done. Change the toothbrush about every three months, whenever the bristles look worn out, or after your little one has a cold or illness.” 

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.