Brushing & Flossing
When to begin brushing
At first wipe infant’s teeth gently with a moist, soft cloth or gauze square. As babies grow and get more teeth, use a child’s toothbrush with a small, pea-sized dab of fluoride-free toothpaste. By age two or three begin to teach your child to brush, and use a toothpaste with fluoride only if your child has learned how to spit. You will still need to brush where they miss.
Hold the brush at a 45 degrees angle towards teeth and gums. Move brush back and forth with a gentle, short motion, about a half tooth wide to remove plaque.
- Brush the inside and outside surfaces of each tooth, top and bottom.
- Hold the brush flat on top of the teeth and brush the chewing surfaces.
- Gently brush the tongue to remove debris.
You should use just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (such as Baby OraGel) until your child is able to spit it out (too much fluoride can stain the developing permanent teeth).
For most toddlers, getting them to brush their teeth can be quite a challenge. Some suggestions for making tooth brushing less of a battle can include:
- Let your child brush your teeth at the same time.
- Let your child pick out a few toothbrushes with his favorite characters and giving him a choice of which one he wants to use each time (this will give him some feeling of control over the situation).
- Let your child brush his own teeth first (you will likely have to “help out”).
- Read your child some children’s books about tooth brushing.
- Have everyone brush their teeth at the same time.
- Download an application on your phone with music, countdowns or videos.
Children’s hands and mouths are different than adults. They need to use toothbrushes designed for children. Both adults and children should use brushes with soft, rounded bristles for gentle cleaning. Change to a new brush about every three months.
When to begin using a toothpaste
Once your child has a few teeth, you can start using toothpaste on the brush. Use only a tiny amount for each cleaning, and be sure to choose toothpaste without fluoride for children under two because too much fluoride can be dangerous for very young children. Always have your child rinse and spit out toothpaste after brushing to help him begin a lifelong habit he’ll need when he graduates to fluoride toothpaste. Children naturally want to swallow toothpaste after brushing, and swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can cause permanent teeth to stain. You should brush your child’s teeth for him until he is ready to take on that responsibility himself, which usually happens by age six or seven.
When to begin flossing
Often there is space in between your child’s front teeth. However if your child’s teeth are in contact it is important to start flossing early. Molars usually will have contact by age 2 or 3, by then flossing should be part of the night time routine. It is easier to use disposable flossers than regular string.
To help your child understand the importance of brushing and flossing, it can be sometimes fun and helpful to let them eat or drink something that will “stain“ their teeth temporarily and then brush and floss them clean. It can also be a good idea to create a “tooth brushing routine”. And stick to the same routine each day.