Learning good oral hygiene habits young can help to set your child up for a lifetime of healthy smiles, but our Burnaby children's dentists know that teaching your child how to clean their teeth properly takes some work. Below are a few tips on how to teach your child to brush their teeth.
How do I teach my child to brush their teeth?
We know that getting your child to brush their teeth at all can be challenging, let alone teaching them the correct way to brush! But taking the time to teach your young child to clean their teeth properly can pay off in a lifetime of good oral health.
As your child is learning to brush their own teeth properly, it will be important for you to take some extra time to brush their teeth for them as well (either before or after they have tried by themselves), in order to maintain good oral hygiene as they learn.
Step 1 - Choose a Toothbrush That Your Child Loves
Allow your child to help choose their own toothbrush. Let them browse through the different colours and characters until your child finds one that catches their eye and makes them smile. This can be done online or in-store and should be done with a sense of fun. Your child's morning and evening oral hygiene routine will seem like less of a chore if your child is excited to use their toothbrush.
A few rules to follow when guiding your child's choice of toothbrush...
Purchase a toothbrush that will fit comfortably in their tiny hand. This can be a little more challenging when online shopping but most toothbrush packaging clearly states an age range that the brush was designed for. Try to guide your child to choose an age appropriate toothbrush in a colour they love.
Be sure that your child's new toothbrush has soft rounded bristles and a small brush head. A small brush head will allow you and your child to reach the tighter areas of the mouth such as the very back teeth and behind the front teeth. Soft rounded bristles help to protect delicate young gums while still getting the job done. Plaque is soft and easy to remove if teeth are brushed twice daily, so there is no need to use a toothbrush with firmer bristles.
Children can be hard on toothbrushes! Our Burnaby children's dentists recommend buying a new toothbrush for your child every 3 or 4 months. If your child's toothbrush has bent or worn down bristles it's time for a new toothbrush. Damaged bristles could harm your child's gums.
Step 2 - Choose the Right Toothpaste for Your Child
- 3 Years and Under - Under the age of 3 parents should brush their children's teeth. Unless your child's dentist has advised you otherwise, toothpaste is not required at this age.
- 3 - 6 Years - At this age, parents should still assist children in brushing their teeth, and begin teaching their children on how to brush properly using the guidelines below. Our Burnaby children's dentists recommend using a pea size portion of child specific fluoridated toothpaste when brushing.
- 6 and Older - Around this age children have developed adequate manual dexterity to begin brushing their own teeth, with parental guidance. Using a fluoridated toothpaste in a flavour your child enjoys will help to make the task more enjoyable.
Step 3 - Brushing Technique
- Begin by having your child hold their toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to their teeth. Bristles should point to where the teeth and gums meet.
- Encourage your child to gently brush in circles around each tooth.
- To keep them brushing long enough to get the job done, have your child imagine their mouth in 4 quarters. Teach your child focus on brushing one quarter of their mouth at a time, spending 30 seconds brushing the fronts, backs and tops of all the teeth in that quarter of their mouth. Then they can move on to the next quarter.
- To help your young child continue brushing for the full recommended 2 minutes, try playing a fun song, or using a timer that they set themselves.
Step 4 - Flossing Younger Smiles
Flossing takes a fair amount of manual dexterity that young children just don't have, so you will need to help to floss their teeth. Here's how you can get the job done:
- Break off a piece of floss about as long as your child's arm. Wrap the floss around the middle fingers on each of your hands, leaving about 2 inches between the hands. Then use your index fingers to guide the floss between your child's teeth.
- Slide the floss gently between the teeth and wrap it into a "C" shape, and clean where the tooth and gums meet.
- Use the floss like a windshield wiper and wipe the tooth from bottom to top 2 or 3 times, until it's sparkling clean. Floss both sides of each tooth, and be sure not to forget the backs of the last molars.
- As you move from tooth to tooth, move to a new part of the floss.
- Be sure to throw dental floss in the garbage after use, never flush dental floss down the toilet.
Step 5 - Encouraging Older Kids to Floss Their Teeth
To help make flossing as easy as possible for your child, there are a number of readily available flossing tools specifically designed for kids. Flossers are available in a variety of child friendly flavours, animal shapes, and a rainbow of cheerful colours your child will love.