Strategies for Successfully Brushing Your Child’s Teeth
Elise Sarvas, DDS, MSD, MPH
Dental Director, Minnesota Oral Health Project and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Developmental and Surgical Sciences, University of Minnesota
Most people know they should brush their teeth twice a day. Most people know they should brush their child’s teeth too. But not many realize that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that they do so for TWO MINUTES each time. Two minutes can seem like an eternity when staring into the bathroom mirror – and even more so for kids.
But it is important so that there is enough time for the toothbrush to reach all the many nooks and crannies where bacteria may be hiding in the mouth. Brushing for two minutes can also keep gums healthy and strong and free from diseases like gingivitis.
Parents are the best brushers for little teeth.
As soon as the first tooth emerges, you should brush your child’s teeth with a small amount (about the size of a grain of rice) size of fluoride toothpaste. A small travel sized tube of toothpaste should last you at least 6 months. When your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste on his or her own, you can graduate to a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Check the label on the tube to see if your toothpaste contains fluoride or not. It is the only ingredient that actively fights against cavities.
Tooth brushing takes a lot of skill and reaching every corner of the mouth is difficult without dexterity. Continue helping brush your child’s teeth until he or she can demonstrate good ability using his or her hands– for most kids this is around age 7 or 8. As your child gains independence, have him or her start brushing first, and then you can go back and “check” all of their teeth with the toothbrush. Just remember to do this for at least two minutes! You’re helping your child build habits for a lifetime of good oral health.
How can you help your child brush for two whole minutes?
- Use a digital or sand timer so your child can see how long you need to brush
- Pick a favorite song that is roughly 2 minutes to listen to while helping your child brush
- Play a favorite cartoon or video clip that is 2 minutes long to watch while brushing
- Visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s 2min2x.org for more ideas
Does it feel overwhelming to help brush your child’s teeth? Here is a video that demonstrates how to do it.