Teeth Brushing for Kids: Start Early To Keep a Beautiful Smile

Once your baby's first tooth appears, it's time to begin cleaning and caring for his teeth. Teeth brushing for kids will be a two-person job until your child is about six years old and gains fine motor control with handling the toothbrush on his own. Make this an everyday habit and your child will be on his way to a cavity-free mouth and a beautiful smile.

When to Begin Brushing

With the eruption of your baby's first teeth, get into the routine of cleaning his pearly whites with a piece of gauze or soft cloth. Make sure to clean both sides of the tooth, preferably after your child's last feeding of the day. By the time your toddler has around eight teeth, move up to an infant-sized toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles. You can begin with just plain water and slowly introduce a pea-sized amount of fluoride-free, child-safe toothpaste that is not harmful when swallowed. Large amounts of toothpaste will create too much foam and sometimes gag little children.

It's All in the Technique

Have your toddler stand by your side looking into the bathroom mirror to see his teeth. At around 18 to 24 months old, your child will have the ability to hold the toothbrush alone, and with your guidance, he can begin his oral hygiene routine. To teach your youngster how to brush, start by making small circles on the teeth and gums with the soft brush. Next, make back-and-forth strokes on the flat biting surfaces. Rinsing can be a problem with little ones who cannot control the water in their mouths, and for some children spitting is difficult, too. But once they learn the technique, toddlers find it fun.

Every time you and your youngster brush your teeth together, offer him praises. Aim for a brushing time of about one minute. Since a young child's teeth are not touching and tight at a young age, there is no need to floss until he is older - around age four or five. If, for some reason, your child does have tight teeth later, gently floss them for him. Check with your pediatric dentist if and when mouthwash is recommended. Some dentists like children to use a fluoride rinse to protect the enamel surface of the teeth.

Stimulate Interest with Fun Products

If you examine the dental aisle at most stores, you will find a wide variety of toothbrushes and child-safe toothpastes. Getting your toddler to brush and have fun at the sink may be as simple as getting a colorful toothbrush. There are brushes that light up, brushes that make music, and bristles that spin.

Think about encouraging teeth brushing for kids at least twice a day. Print out a teeth care chart and mark each time with a bright sticker and a round of applause. Remember: The time spent today will bring bright smiles tomorrow!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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How to FLOSS

  1. Pull 18 to 24 inches of dental floss from the floss dispenser.

  2. Wrap the ends of the floss around your index and middle fingers.

  3. Hold the floss tightly around each tooth in a C shape; move the floss back and forth in a push-pull motion and up and down against the side of each tooth.

How to BRUSH

  1. Place the toothbrush at a 45°angle along the gum line. Move the toothbrush in a back and forth motion, and repeat for each tooth.

  2. Brush the inside surface of each tooth, using the same back and forth technique.

  3. Brush the chewing surface (top) of each tooth.

  4. Use tip of brush to brush behind each tooth — front and back, top and bottom and up and down strokes.

  5. Be sure to brush your tongue to remove odor-causing bacteria.

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