In children, teeth should be cleaned as soon as they emerge. By starting early, your baby gets used to the daily routine. A soft washcloth wrapped around your finger can substitute for a brush when teeth first appear. Ask your dentist when you should switch to a toothbrush. Some dentists suggest waiting until four teeth in a row have come out; others recommend waiting until the child is 2 or 3 years old.
Here are some tips for taking care of your child’s teeth:
- Choose a small, child-sized, soft-bristled toothbrush. Soaking the brush in warm water for a few minutes before brushing can soften the bristles even more.
- Both the American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using an amount of fluoride toothpaste the size of a grain of rice as soon as your baby’s first tooth appears. You can graduate to a pea-sized amount when your child turns 3 years old.
- Brush your child’s teeth twice a day – in the morning and just before bed. Spend 2 minutes brushing, concentrating a good portion of this time on the back molars. This is an area where cavities often first develop.
- Replace the toothbrush every 3 or 4 months, or sooner if it shows signs of wear. Never share a toothbrush with others.
- Start flossing your child’s teeth once a day as soon as two teeth emerge that touch. The use of floss sticks or picks instead of regular string floss may be easier for both you and your child.
- After your child is 6 years old, a fluoride rinse can help prevent cavities. Ask your dentist which product is right.
- Ask your dentist about your child’s fluoride needs. If your drinking water is not fluoridated, fluoride supplements or fluoride treatments may be needed.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants. These are thin, plastic protective barriers that fill in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, protecting them from tooth decay.
Brushing Children’s Teeth – Some Tips
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.
When Should Kids Start Brushing Their Teeth?
Good dental care begins before a baby’s first tooth appears. Just because you can’t see the teeth doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Teeth actually begin to form in the second trimester of pregnancy. At birth, your baby has 20 primary teeth, some of which are fully developed in the jaw.
Here’s when and how to care for those little choppers:
- Even before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.
- Once your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice). Use fluoride toothpaste that carries the American Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of acceptance. (If you are using baby toothpaste without the fluoride, keep it to the same amount because you still want to minimize any toothpaste that is swallowed.)
- Once your baby’s teeth touch, you can begin flossing in between them.
- Around age 2, your child should learn to spit while brushing. Avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this might make swallowing toothpaste more likely.
- Kids ages 3 and up should use only a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise kids younger than 6 while brushing, as they are more likely to swallow toothpaste.
Even babies can develop tooth decay if good feeding habits aren’t practiced. Putting a baby to sleep with a bottle might be convenient, but can harm the baby’s teeth. When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they can eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as bottle mouth. Pocked, pitted, or discolored front teeth are signs of bottle mouth. Kids with severe cases might develop cavities and need all of their front teeth pulled (permanent teeth will grow in later).
Parents and childcare providers should help young kids set specific times for drinking each day because sucking on a bottle throughout the day can be equally damaging to young teeth. Babies as young as 6 months are encouraged to switch from a bottle to a sippy cup(with a straw or hard spout). By 12 months of age, they’ll have the motor skills and coordination to use the cup on their own.