Just as there are foods for children and foods for adults, there are child-friendly oral care products distinct from their grown-up counterparts. Toothpaste and mouthwash for children typically feature child-friendly flavours and graphics that make taking care of the teeth and gums a bit more fun. Although you can introduce your child to suitable toothpastes from infancy, it is typically recommended that you wait until he or she has reached a certain age before introducing mouthwash.
Are Your Children Ready?
Typically, mouthwash isn't recommended for kids under the age of six. This is because some types of mouthwash for children contain fluoride. And although fluoride is great at preventing tooth cavities – it can reduce decay by up to 60 percent – too much too early on can cause fluorosis.
Fluorosis can only occur when a child's teeth are still forming. The condition causes changes to the colour and texture of the teeth – a child's teeth might develop white or brown spots, or the surface of the teeth may appear bumpy. Fortunately, fluorosis is just a cosmetic issue and can be prevented by making sure your child doesn't use mouthwash too soon or swallow his fluoride toothpaste.
Keep in mind that, even when your child's teeth are ready for mouthwash, your child might not be. Mouthwash should be spat out, just like toothpaste, but it can be tricky for young kids to get used to swishing the liquid rather than swallowing it like a beverage. One way to test your child and see if he is ready to use a mouthwash is to have him take a sip of water, swish it around his mouth and then spit it out into the sink. If children can handle rinsing with water, they can most likely handle mouthwash.
Benefits of Mouthwash
Mouthwash is meant to boost the effects of flossing and brushing once and twice a day, respectively. It can help give children fresher breath, if that's a concern for them. Mouthwashes that contain fluoride also provide an extra dose of cavity protection for children over the age of six. If your child wears braces, mouthwash can loosen bits of food that often get stuck in the brackets, ensuring a more thorough cleaning job until the braces come off. Using a mouthwash can also be helpful for children who haven't yet mastered brushing or flossing, allowing them to clean areas they find hard to reach.
When your child first starts using mouthwash, it's a good idea to provide some supervision to make sure he or she doesn't accidentally swallow it. Start the process with a child-friendly fluoride rinse and make a game out of using it for kids around the age of seven or eight. Get a stopwatch and time them for about a minute, then yell "spit!" or "go!" when it's time to spit it out. Supervising your child in the early stages of using a mouthwash will also let you make sure that he or she is brushing and flossing before using the rinse.
Mouthwash isn't a must-use for every child, so be sure to check in with your child's dentist before using it. The dentist might decide that a mouthwash will indeed benefit your child's teeth. Choosing a product made for children will also help get them excited about another step in their oral care routine.