As parents, we model by example. If we want our children to eat their fruits and veggies, we have to make sure we’re eating them ourselves; if we want them to limit screen time, we have to turn off the TV and put away our phones too. And if we want our children to have good oral hygiene habits, we need to demonstrate these habits in our own daily routines.
If you don’t know how to properly brush your teeth, how can you teach your child how to do it? You might think you’re doing it correctly, but many of our patients’ parents are surprised to learn that their habits are a little lacking! Here’s a primer for you and your child to make sure you’re both getting it right.
Start with the Right Brush
Raise your hand if you always reach for the brush with firm bristles when you’re at the store. You probably think those stiff, hard bristles are the best option for removing plaque and food particles from your teeth, but we dentists actually recommend soft bristles on toothbrushes. Why is that? Well, because soft-bristled brushes are gentler on gums. If you have the budget for an electric toothbrush, that’s even better–research shows that they are far superior to manual toothbrushes when it comes to removing plaque.
Don’t forget to replace your brush every 3 to 4 months!
Use the Right Amount of Toothpaste–and Make Sure It Has Fluoride
The American Dental Association recommends a fluoride toothpaste for all children, regardless of age. Old recommendations used to suggest using water to brush teeth for children under 3, so this may be different from what you’ve been told in the past. Look for the ADA seal on any toothpaste you buy and you’ll know it’s a good choice.
In TV commercials and magazine advertisements, you often see a thick ribbon of toothpaste on the brush. This is not the right amount of toothpaste to use, for children or adults. Up to 3 years old, a child only needs an amount of toothpaste equivalent to a single grain of rice; over 3 years, a pea-sized amount will do. And for adults? A pea-sized amount is just right for you too!
Don’t Miss a Spot
The best technique for brushing teeth is to place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and gently move it back and forth in a circular motion to loosen plaque and food particles. Make sure you brush the outer, inner, and chewing surfaces.
Not missing a spot can be tricky for kids. For this reason, we recommend that mom or dad brush their toddlers’ teeth for them, then share tooth brushing duties, and finally let them take over when they’re old enough to be trusted to do a thorough job.
Two Minutes, Twice a Day
This is the ADA recommendation for adults and children. We see many children who swear up and down that they brush their teeth twice a day, but their concept of “brushing” is a quick swipe on the outer surfaces of their teeth that lasts no more than 10 seconds. If you spring for an electric toothbrush, as mentioned above, you’ll find that they often have 2-minute timers built in. With a manual brush, we recommend getting a fun kitchen timer to keep in the bathroom and setting it to 2 minutes each time your child is brushing.
Let’s Talk About Tooth Brushing
Want to talk to us more about your child’s tooth brushing habits? We’d love to meet with you! Contact Pediatric Dental Associates at 908-735-6300 to set up an appointment.