Children, the little apples of our eye, can sometimes get discouraged and frustrated when we try to teach them good oral hygiene habits like thorough, effective teeth brushing. Not only is their hand-eye coordination only partially developed, but their mouths are small. However, these facts are not an excuse to avoid brushing or accept a subpar effort. Duncan, OK, dentist Dr. Matthew Bridges explains, “If we don’t make sure our children brush well twice a day, then food debris, sugars, acids, and plaque will cause cavities and gum disease–both of which create unnecessary pain and require restorative measures.”
In today’s blog, you’ll learn excellent tips about how to teach your children to effectively brush their teeth with you, then later without your help. We’ll explore:
- The right children’s dental care tools (with tooth development chart)
- Use the mimic method to train your child
- Two minutes, two times a day: 2×2
The Right Dental Homecare Tools per Your Duncan, OK, Family Dentist
On average, kids lose all of their primary teeth by age 13. Their mouths keep growing from birth through the end of their teen years when jawbones stop growing. All this growing and changing compounds the complexity of teaching kids to properly brush their teeth.
To set your child up for success, begin by wiping out his infant mouth with a soft, wet washcloth after feedings. If your child will fall asleep while feeding, only allow water in his bottle. Milk and juices contain sugar, and sugar triggers the development of cavities. A child who falls asleep with a bottle dripping sugar into his mouth bathes his teeth in cavity-causing liquid while sleeping. As a result, a painful condition called baby bottle tooth decay can develop.
By month six, the first baby tooth should erupt. See the chart on this page for a timeline of when to expect the eruption of all primary teeth. Baby teeth should be brushed with an infant toothbrush. The style that fits over your forefinger makes brushing easier and more comfortable for the child than if you use a toddler toothbrush in a baby’s mouth.
Also, you choose a fluoride-free children’s toothpaste, at least until a child will spit and rinse his mouth, which is usually after age three. Kids who swallow fluoridated toothpaste can develop fluorosis, a condition in which white, horizontal lines appear on permanent teeth while the permanent teeth buds are still developing within the jaw. Fluorosis will not respond to teeth-whitening chemicals.
Once a baby becomes a toddler, graduate to a small-head, soft-bristle toddler toothbrush. From that point, as your child grows, continue to purchase a size-appropriate brush, always with soft bristles. Replace toothbrushes every three months. Your child may become more enthusiastic about brushing if you allow him to select a toothbrush and toothpaste with his favorite characters or colors.
TIP: Do not brush your child’s teeth hard. Gentle, thorough brushing with toothpaste will adequately clean the teeth and gums. Too much pressure can erode tooth enamel and harm the gum tissue.
Use the Mimic Method
Kids want to be like Mom and Dad when they’re small. Allow your toddler to mimic you when you brush your teeth, but end this morning and evening routine by brushing their teeth for them. Once a child reaches age six to eight, depending on skill level, he can brush independently as long as you check the work and provide additional assistance as needed.
The day you stop reminding your little one to brush, and the day you don’t check his work, will be the very day he starts neglecting his oral hygiene!
Fun Dental Health Projects
Don’t Get Discouraged
Mom and Dad, don’t give up. There may be tears and frustration (hopefully not from you), but great oral health and a strong smile are worth the effort. If you’re diligent and make certain your children are diligent with twice-daily oral hygiene at home, you’ll enjoy few or no cavities throughout your kiddo’s childhood.
Remember, too, that even middle schoolers and high schoolers will neglect oral hygiene without reminders. Kids just get lazy; it’s human nature. They also forget and cut corners to save time. It’s your job, and that of your Duncan, OK, dentist’s to help your kids and teens maintain healthy smiles.
2 Minutes, 2x a Day: The 2×2 Rule
Duncan, OK, dentist Dr. Bridges explains: “The rule of thumb is, everyone should brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day: once after breakfast and again after dinner. Singing the “Alphabet Song” takes about two minutes, so you and your little one can hum while you brush or use a timer. You can find kids’ teeth brushing timers on Amazon.”
To set your kids up for success, brush in quadrants:
- Top right
- Top left
- Bottom right
- Bottom left
And in each quadrant, brush:
- Chewing surface
- Gum lines
Add flossing before brushing once your child develops teeth close to one another. Widely spaced teeth don’t require flossing if the toothbrush bristles can reach between the teeth. However, the earlier you start a child on flossing, the easier it will become. Start flossing your child’s teeth by age five or earlier. You do it at first, then introduce pre-threaded children’s flossers and your child can attempt flossing independently. As with brushing teeth, come behind to check and touch up the work.
When a child rinses and spits without swallowing, usually by age four or so, you can also introduce mouthwash as the final step to the brushing and flossing routine. Children can measure their own dose of mouthwash with ACT, a brand that features a push-to-measure cylinder on the product packaging.
Your Child’s Duncan, OK, Dentist is at Chisholm Trail Smile Center
Dr. Matthew Bridges and our team serve families, from a baby with one little tooth to great-great-grandparents. Parents like us because we adore their children! Dr. Bridges got his love for dentistry after participating in a children’s oral health event. He was inspired to go to dental school and he’s loved his job–and his patients–ever since. Call us today at 580.255.4880 and reserve appointments for your family members.