Timing Your Kids When Brushing Their Teeth

It's already hard enough to teach your kids good dental habits. Trying to get them to brush after meals and floss regularly can be a pain in the neck. But should you also be timing your kids when brushing their teeth? Believe it or not, there may be some benefits to getting out the stopwatch.

How Much Time Should Kids Spend Brushing Teeth?

Children love to take their time getting dressed in the morning, packing their backpacks and cleaning their rooms. But they often rush through their dental routine. According to the dental experts at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, it should take about two minutes to brush their teeth. But Tim Durham, D.D.S. explains that it's not just time that matters.

Dr. Durham says that good dental habits require more than just a two-minute time investment. "Many times we spend two minutes scrubbing away at just the tops of our teeth," he says in his YouTube video for the university. He goes on to say that we need to get to the inside of our teeth by the tongue, to the outsides of our teeth and to the areas back behind the front and back teeth. "It's both quality and time that matters," he says.

Methods: Timing Your Kids When Brushing Their Teeth

So what's the best way to make sure your kids spend the right amount of time brushing properly? Depending on the age of your children, there are different techniques you can try.

Toddlers: At this age, you are probably still supervising their dental routine. Adapt one of their favorite songs to make it last about two minutes and sing out loud while your child is brushing.

Older children: If you don't want to sing to your nine-year-old while he's brushing, get him a timer to sit on his bathroom counter. He may not always use it, but you can zip into the bathroom once in a while to set the timer and see if he takes enough time to reach the different areas of his mouth when he brushes.

Teens: As your kids get older, they'll want more independence. Invest in an electric toothbrush with a timer to make sure they are taking enough time to brush their teeth. There are several brands on the market that include a two-minute timer for proper brushing.

Since children mimic what you do, have you timed yourself lately? Brushing together may be the best way to show your kids how important it is to exercise a proper dental routine.

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.