Tooth Brushing

Brushing Instructions

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.  We provide age appropriate toothbrushes at every cleaning appointment.  We believe a smaller brush head size is better as it helps get along the gumline and close to the tongue with ease.

Wipe infant’s teeth gently with a moist, soft cloth or gauze square. As babies grow, use a child’s toothbrush with a small smear (think tip of a match head) of non-fluoridated toothpaste, until age 3.

By age two or three begin to teach your child to brush.  You will still need to brush for them where they miss. An adult must be responsible for brushing each time until the child develops the manual dexterity to accomplish the task well (think writing in cursive neatly or printing letters uniformly about an inch high).  Teeth should be brushed after breakfast in the morning and before going to bed at night, nothing but water after nighttime brushing!  It is encouraged to brush after other meals and snacks if it is possible. Fluoridated toothpaste should be used beginning at age 3.  Still only a small smear (size of a match tip) of toothpaste as kids often  swallow before they spit at this age since they like the toothpaste flavor.  Please note regular kids toothpaste and adult mint flavored toothpaste have the same level of fluoride, only the flavor is different!

Generally an adult needs to be responsible for brushing until a child is about 8 1/2 years old. Dentists and hygienists often advise children to use a small circular motion to remove plaque. When children are older, they can switch to this method.

Hold the brush at a 45 degrees angle towards teeth and gums. Move brush in a small circular motion with short strokes, about a half tooth wide.

  • 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.

When To Begin Brushing

Once your child’s teeth begin erupting, you can begin cleaning them by wiping them with a moist washcloth. As your child gets more teeth, you can begin to use a soft child’s toothbrush. You should use just a small smear  (tip of a match head) amount of non-fluoridated toothpaste (such as Baby OraGel or toddler training toothpaste) until your child is able to spit it out, around 3 years old (too much fluoride can stain/mottle the adult teeth which are developing).

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 have to “help out” after).
  • Read your child some children’s books about tooth brushing.
  • Tooth brushing has a health consequence, unlike brushing your hair, so it is important that an adult be responsible each time whether a child likes it or not.  It will get easier with the routine of it!

To help your child understand the importance of brushing, it can be sometimes fun and helpful to let them eat or drink something that will “stain“ their teeth temporarily and then brush them clean.

It can also be a good idea to create a “tooth brushing routine”.  Sing a silly song:) And stick to the same routine each day.

Flossing Recommendations

Floss between your child’s teeth daily.  Areas where there is spacing between teeth do not need flossed.  If a child’s front teeth touch together they need flossed.  A child’s back molars need flossed once they are erupted completely and touching, typically about 3- 3 1/2 years old. We encourage an adult to help floss until a child is 10-11 years old.  Prior that they do not demonstrate correct flossing of the back molars.  Please ask Dr. C to show you proper positioning of your child to make flossing easier for you, as well as demonstrate flossing if you have any questions on how best to do this for your child!