Good habits begin at an early age. Oral hygiene is an important part of your child’s overall health, and it is crucial for parents to support the development of healthy habits in their kids.
Keep reading for toothbrushing tips for young children at every stage of childhood.
From birth, it is recommended that parents begin using a finger toothbrush or washcloth to gently rub and wash their child’s gums after feedings. Once the first tooth comes in, usually around 6 months old, parents should begin brushing with a tiny amount of toothpaste.
Until age 3, you should be using no more than a rice-sized amount of toothpaste for your baby.
In addition, your child’s first dental appointment should take place before age 1, or soon after their first tooth comes in. This helps kids get used to visiting the dentist from an early age and helps parents stay on top of any oral health issues that may already be developing.
At this age, it is important to brush your toddler’s teeth often. The frequent use of bottles and sippy cups makes it necessary to pay extra attention to your toddler’s oral health. If not, the sugars in juice and milk can linger on the teeth for hours, leading to an increased risk of cavities.
As your child grows, it is important to model proper brushing for them. Let them watch how you brush your teeth and then practice brushing their own before you take over for them.
The American Dental Association recommends that kids brush their teeth at least twice a day (i.e. once in the morning and once in the evening) for at least 2 minutes. Kids should use a soft-bristled toothbrush appropriate for their age and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
At this age, letting your child brush first with a final sweep from mom or dad is the best way for them to eventually get to the stage of brushing without supervision. Special toothbrushes or brushing aids that use a timer, light, or song can help your child get an idea of how long they need to brush.
Beginning around school age, most kids should be able to brush their teeth on their own with minimal adult intervention. However, some children may still require parental supervision for a few more years to ensure they are brushing properly. If your child is learning how to floss, you will likely need to assist them until around the age of 9 or 10 as well. Any dental appliances such as braces can also complicate an oral hygiene routine, so be sure to check in with older kids and teens who have recently undergone orthodontal treatment to ensure they are following their dentist’s instructions.
At every age, it is important to model the behavior you wish to see, and reward healthy habits when you see them. Give your kids some control over choosing their toothbrush and flavor of toothpaste or floss. Keep in mind that your child’s toothbrush should be replaced every 3-4 months, or sooner depending on wear and tear. Although some parents prefer to avoid fluoride, there is some research that the use of fluoride helps prevent cavities in older kids.
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s oral health, visit your family dentist or give us a call to speak with one of our friendly board-certified pediatrician in Arvada!