As a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, you naturally want what is best for the children in your life. If you didn’t have access to good dental care growing up, you likely want to make sure that your son, daughter, or grandchild doesn’t have to go through the same experience. Teaching your child how to brush their own teeth is the first step.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to brush children’s teeth, all wrapped up into 5 easy steps:
- Use an Age Appropriate Toothpaste
Fluoride is important to promote healthy tooth development, but if your child is very young, he or she may want to eat or swallow their toothpaste instead of rinse and spit it out. When this is the case, it can cause upset tummies and nausea. Excessive fluoride intake in areas with naturally elevated mineral levels is even linked to hypermineralized tooth enamel…which is strong, but will cause discoloration, which isn’t very pretty to look at. More is not always better, but just a touch of this mineral can help prevent dozens of cavities later on down the road.
Until your child can rinse well, use a fluoride-free “training” toothpaste or just plain tap water. Once he or she is old enough, use only a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. That’s all that is needed (even for adults!). Mouthwash is a great add-on, but it does not replace brushing. If your child does prefer mouthwash, use it after brushing and stick to an age-appropriate fluoride rinse. Avoid alcohol-based rinses, as they may tend to sting.
- Choose the Right Toothbrush
Not all toothbrushes are created equal. Check the age recommendations on the packaging the next time you’re at the supermarket.
Generally, younger children need smaller toothbrushes. After all, they have much smaller mouths! Using a large brush may make your child happy, but it won’t fit around the small curves that need to be cleaned. Instead, give your child two or three choices to pick from.
If dexterity is a concern, look into battery-powered or rechargeable electric toothbrushes. At this age, an electric brush can help you to clean more efficiently, especially if your little one’s behavior is challenging. Cheaper models can easily be discarded if they accidentally get “dropped” in the toilet, or you can get a high end design with heads that can be changed out as your child grows.
- Make it Fun
If your child is hesitant, try to make tooth brushing into a game. Brush alongside of your child or sing songs as you go along. Take pictures or dance along the way. Children enjoy completing tasks with their parents and caregivers…why should tooth brushing be any different? It’s just a great opportunity to spend a bit more one-on-one time together.
Consider having your child brush his or her teeth first, and then you can follow up behind them. As they get older, they’ll be able to fully take on the responsibility on their own. A good rule of thumb is that if your child cannot tie their own shoes, you should continue helping them brush their teeth.
Smaller children may need a bit more “encouragement” to get into the tooth brushing habit. Sometimes it can help to use the handle of an adult toothbrush as a “prop” for your child to bite on, while you brush the other side of their mouth. This is a great way to prevent from having little teeth biting into your finger! For more advice on how to clean inside of a squirmy little mouth, ask for advice from your family dentist or dental hygienist.
- Be Sure You’re Brushing Long Enough
The standard rule of thumb is to brush for at least two minutes, twice a day. This gives you enough time to clean areas that might accidentally be skipped over. Without timing yourself, most people only brush for 30 seconds! To help your child brush long enough, consider using a sand timer or even a song on the radio.
Brush in big circles, just one or two teeth at a time. Clean all of the areas inside of, outside of, and on top of your teeth. Don’t forget to brush along the gumlines, as this is the main area where gingivitis may start to develop (an infection that many children are prone to!).
At your child’s next dental checkup, ask about how using disclosing tablets or solution can help. These products stain the tooth plaque so that you and your child can see the areas that were accidentally missed. It’s a good way to make sure everyone is brushing the way that they need to be. Your dentist may even send some home with you.
- Brushing Isn’t the Only Answer
Even the most expensive toothbrush will never clean areas between the teeth, so don’t forget the floss! Given the fact that children’s teeth decay so easily in the areas where they touch one another, flossing is extremely important. Start out by using it to clean the areas where the teeth touch side-to-side. Wide spaces are good and don’t have to be worried about quite as much.
With routine trips to the dentist, you can make sure that your child’s tooth brushing is efficient and their teeth are developing properly. Other protective steps like in-office fluoride treatments and dental sealants can drastically reduce the risk of developing cavities. Pediatric medical and dental experts all recommend that a child be seen for their first dental checkup by their first birthday, or when the first tooth erupts…whichever occurs first. Call Grand Parkway Smiles to schedule your family’s next trip to the dentist!
Loved this dentist! So quick, nice and informative... I was dreading taking my 21 month old daughter to her first appointment but they were so helpful and sweet! Highly recommend this office