“My children do not want to brush their teeth,”
“My child will not sit still for me to brush,”
“My preschooler wants to brush his own teeth but doesn’t do a good job.”
Can you relate? Many of the parents I meet at our dental clinics and parenting groups also ask: “When should I start brushing my child’s teeth?” and “Should I use toothpaste with fluoride or without, and how much toothpaste should I use?”
First, the basics:
Start to clean your baby’s mouth even before they have any teeth. At least once a day use a clean washcloth that is moistened with lukewarm water. Wrap it around your index finger and gently clean the inside of the cheeks, tongue and gums of your baby’s mouth. Cleaning your baby’s mouth will create an early habit of oral care.
Then, when your baby starts to have teeth, use a small, soft toothbrush. Do not use any toothpaste if your child is under 3 years, unless advised by an oral health professional. Brush all surfaces on each tooth at least twice per day.
If your child is age 3 or older use a small, soft toothbrush, and a smear or a “green pea” sized amount of fluoride toothpaste (you’ll want to squeeze the toothpaste yourself!). Supervise or do the brushing until age 7. Encourage your child not to swallow toothpaste, to spit out extra toothpaste and rinse well after brushing. Start your child on the path to a lifetime of good oral health by brushing every day!
*A smear or a green pea sized amount of toothpaste is plenty
* Fluoride helps to reduce the risk of tooth decay by making teeth stronger and more resistant to tooth decay *
What about using non-fluoridated toothpaste?
There is no need to use any toothpaste at all for the first three years of your child’s life (unless your child’s oral health professional has told you otherwise). The act of brushing your kid’s teeth is enough, and besides, using non-fluoridated toothpaste has not been shown to prevent tooth decay. If you do decide to use non-fluoridated toothpaste, let your oral health professional know and be sure to encourage your child to spit out the toothpaste when finished brushing. This way he’ll hopefully be less likely to swallow fluoridated toothpaste when you switch.
Let brushing be a positive experience:
- Try to make brushing fun! Sing a silly song about brushing teeth.
- Children learn by example so let your child watch you brush then say something like: “Let’s do your teeth now”.
- Let them help you brush your teeth by doing “hand over hand.” Let them hold your toothbrush and with your hand over theirs, guide the toothbrush. Then hold their toothbrush and let them guide it in their mouth.
- For younger children try letting them sit on your lap or lay their head on your lap.
- For your older child try a calendar with stickers so that whenever they brush they get to add a sticker to the calendar. You could also get a timer so that they know how long to brush (2 minutes).
- If you have a positive attitude about dental health (and take good care of your own dental health), so will your child.
So the next time you find yourself sweaty and out of breath from getting your kids’ teeth brushed, maybe it’s time to have a good laugh, brush your own teeth and smile! What are some other tips you have found helpful when taking care of your children’s dental health?
Share your experience:
For more tips and hints about your child’s dental health, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Lynn Medland has worked with the Halton Region Health Department as a Dental Health Educator for the last twenty five years (1986). During this time, she has gained experience working with, and supporting those whose primary responsibility is to care for older adults and children. She provides in-services to groups of all sizes and backgrounds, one on one consultation and assists with creation of teaching tools for education purposes. Lynn also worked in a private dental office for approximately 10 years before joining Halton Region Health Department. Lynn has been a Certified Dental Assistant since 1979 and is a Member of the Ontario Dental Assistants Association and the Canadian Dental Assistants Association.