Did you know only children over 8 years of age should be brushing their own teeth?
Even babies and toddlers can learn great habits from regular routine brushing. However, children lack the dexterity to clean properly for several more years. It is a great idea to allow your child to have a go at learning how to use a toothbrush, but an adult generally should be in charge of the cleaning twice daily for most children until the child is around 8 years old.
You should start brushing your baby’s teeth and gums twice daily from when the first tooth has erupted. Here are some handy tips and strategies we have come up with over the years which seem to have the greatest success.
Routine is the key
If daily brushing is predictable, expectations are clear and rewards are in place then brushing will become a normal part of the everyday routine.
7 Toothbrushing Tips and Strategies for Parents
Small babies and toddlers will often need a distraction as you brush. This can be something as simple as looking at themselves in the mirror, swaddling, lying upside down on your lap or a funny tooth brushing song.
- Babies and Toddlers – can have a “turn” at brushing. This can be a reward after the adult has done the brushing.
- Let them brush your teeth – this can give them a better perspective on what you are doing in their mouth during brushing time. If the toddler finds this fun, it can also be used as a reward for sitting still.
- For young children a fun weekly reward chart can work well to establish a routine. After a few weeks you could go shopping together for a new toothbrush. We have created one here for you to download, print and hang in the bathroom.
5. DO – talk about germs, the nasty things they get up to and the damage they cause. Kids are fascinated by ugly germ stories !! But…DON’T – talk about a visit to the dentist, drills and needles as a negative consequence for not brushing properly. This will only cause anxiety about visiting the dentist in the future.
6. Handy Tech Tips – Using an electric toothbrush with a built-in timer has made the biggest difference to many of our older kids and adult patients’ brushing routines. It also has alerts for when to move to the next part of the mouth so the molars are not forgotten.
There are toothbrush timing apps which can be useful such as:
Toddlers and preschoolers – Oral B Disney Magic Timer – A fun and colourful app filled with Disney favourites and virtual calendar, stickers and rewards unlock more characters and albums with regular brushing. It can be used with or without purchasing the Disney branded toothbrushes and toothpaste.
For older kids and even adults – Brush DJ – An award winning app. For an upbeat, energetic start to the day, play 2 minutes of your favourite songs from your phone or iPod with a visual reminder to move the brush around your mouth. Make brushing less boring while rediscovering your music collection.
7. For extra-sensitive children – We understand that children have sensory challenges and a very low tolerance of anything touching their face, lips and teeth. With a bit of patience and desensitizing they will be brushing happily twice a day.
Start with very small achievements:
- Child’s Soft Bristle Toothbrush or even start with using a face washer or soft flannel cloth to touch the chin and lips. Desensitizing the child using a predictable firm strokes starting at the cheekbones, nose and upper lips then moving to chin and lips.
- Allowing the child to watch the mirror and count with you to the same number each time. Once you reach a certain number – brushing is over until next time.
- Although a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste is needed for enamel protection, you may want to start with plain warm water at first if the child is very sensitive to taste.
- If your child is particularly sensitive and you are concerned about their first dental visit, give us a call for a chat. We can discuss your particular concerns and strategies we find helpful.
Dr Craig Duval is committed to the highest standards of care for his patients through actively participating in professional development. Since 2003, Craig has attended over 200 hours of continuing education every year. Learn more