A lot of people ask, "How should I brush my child’s teeth?" Caring for your child’s teeth starts as soon as the first tooth erupts and begins with brushing the teeth and regular dental visits for a dental exam and cleaning . Dental care for babies is done differently from dental care for toddlers or preschoolers. However, one thing is the same: as parents, we need to encourage, educate and supervise how our children brush their teeth. Dentists suggest that children should have adult supervision when brushing their teeth until they are seven to eight years old.
Brushing Your Baby’s Teeth
Did you know that proper dental care begins BEFORE a baby’s first tooth appears? Run a damp washcloth gently on your baby’s gums once a day. This will help clear away harmful bacteria. Once a baby’s tooth erupts, start with an infant toothbrush. Dental opinion on the use of toothpaste before two years old vary so it is best to consult with your dentist what would be best for your baby. If you will use a toothpaste, choose one that doesn't contain fluoride. Too much swallowing of fluoride can lead to discoloration in permanent teeth. For this reason, some parents use water to clean their baby’s mouth and teeth until they have two or more teeth.
Why start early?
Habits form during infancy. Once your baby gets used to the routine of cleaning their teeth at certain times during the day, it will not be as hard to inculcate the good habit of brushing one’s teeth as they get older. Teeth also need care as it takes years before permanent or adult teeth come out. Dental caries and tooth decay are problems that are very preventable during your child’s early years.
Brushing Your Child’s Teeth (Toddlers and Preschoolers)
At age 2, your child now knows how to spit. The introduction of toothpaste can begin. Avoid sugary or sweetened toothpaste brands as these do more harm than good.
Here are some tips on how to brush your child’s teeth:
- Choose a small, appropriate-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. To encourage teeth brushing, let your child pick a toothbrush he likes. Before doing the routine, let the bristles soak in warm water for a few minutes to let it soften even more.
- Brush your children’ teeth twice a way – in the morning and before bedtime. Brushing their teeth should be the last thing they do before going to bed so it doesn’t give them time to sneak in desserts or eat a midnight snack (if they eat, brush their teeth again).
- Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush.
- Cradle your child’s head, allowing you to see his rear teeth and start brushing the molars first. This is an area where cavities usually first develop.
- Spend at least two minutes brushing your child’s teeth. This maybe a long time for your child. You can sing a song while brushing their teeth and explain to them that you will stop once the song is done.
- You can let your child brush his teeth by himself but make sure to brush it yourself after.
- Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 or 4 months. Replace it as soon as it shows signs of wear.
- Flossing should be done as soon as two teeth touch each other. Floss sticks or picks instead of string floss are better for your children.
You can check an animated image on how to brush your child’s teeth properly or watch a video on how a dentist does it.
When Should I Let My Children Brush and Floss on Their Own?
Most children lack the coordination and patience to brush or floss properly until about the age of 7. Up until this age, the best way to teach and encourage your children to develop the habit of brushing their teeth properly and regularly is to lead by example.
Allowing your children to see and watch how you brush your teeth educates more than telling them how. It also teaches them the importance of good oral hygiene.
Have Regular Visits with a Pediatric Dentist
Along with regular and proper brushing of your child’s teeth, make sure to bring him to a pediatric dentist twice a year. Other than treatment, a pediatric dentist’s main goal is prevention and maintenance. Preventive care means your child’s dentist will be able to see potential problems and device a way to prevent it from happening. For example, if your child’s teeth have deeper ridges, they are more prone to decay even with regular and proper brushing. Sealants would solve a potential problem by protecting your child’s teeth from bacteria.
Dr. Ted Reese is an Indianapolis dentist who does pediatric cleanings to prevent cavities, frenectomies for children with tongue or lip ties, and traditional or ceramic braces for teens and pre-teens. He practices minimally-invasive dentistry to make it as pain-free as possible (there are also various sedation modalities that can be used) for your child. His clinic has been painstakingly designed not to look like a dental clinic to help calm patients’, especially those of children, fears. His highly qualified and caring staff also go the extra mile to make children comfortable and at home before any dental procedure.
Feel free to call their office at 317-882-0228 to schedule your first “well-baby” dental check-up or your child’s fluoride-free teeth cleaning. They are located just north of Greenwood, Indiana in Southport on US 31.