Let’s do a deep dive into the art of toothbrushing and teaching our kids good oral hygiene habits that will last a lifetime. It takes a bit of repetition, effort and supervision with a whole heap of patience thrown in but come ‘on, our children are worth it!
Parents are advised to start tooth brushing as soon as their child’s first teeth [or baby teeth] erupt. They should use a small (child-size) age-appropriate toothbrush with soft bristles. Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months or sooner if the bristles splay or curl.
A child should go to bed having just had his or her teeth brushed. It is extremely important that no drinks or food should be given after brushing, except plain water.
Tooth brushing should be part of the daily routine to establish a healthy future lifestyle. Teeth should be brushed twice daily – in the morning and last thing at night. Fluoride toothpaste should be put onto a dry brush:
- Up to the age of three: a smear of toothpaste containing 1000ppm of fluoride.
- Over the age of three: a pea sized amount of toothpaste containing 1350-1500ppm or fluoride.
A dry brush is more efficient than a wet one, as the bristles are harder and there is less chance of bacteria accumulating on dry bristles.
Brushing Babies Teeth
One of the easiest ways to brush a baby or toddler’s teeth is from behind. Comfortable and safe positions for the child are on the parents’ knee, sitting on a changing mat, in a baby chair / highchair or sitting in a pram or buggy.
Children should not be allowed to run around with a toothbrush in the mouth because of the risk of injury if they fall-accidents will happen!
If the toddler uses a Soother, Pacifier or Dummies, parents are advised to:
- Use a specifically designed orthodontic soother / pacifier / dummy.
- Never dip it in anything sweet, for example, jam or honey.
The Permanent Teeth
From around 6 to 13 years of age, the primary or baby teeth are successively replaced by the next set of teeth, the 28 permanent or adult teeth.
The first permanent molar emerges right behind the last milk tooth at the back of the mouth. It can be difficult to detect and clean, and the biting surface is irregular and extra sensitive to caries, so it is important to brush properly. Sometimes changing the bushes angle to approach these teeth from the side can really help the effectiveness of the cleaning of these teeth.
Parents should help the child to brush until the age of 8-10. A young child doesn’t have the manual skills to brush properly and cannot understand the consequences of careless brushing. An older child may also have to brush under your supervision. If a child does not have the manual dexterity to tie their shoelaces, they do not the dexterity to clean their teeth adequately.
Try to create a positive atmosphere around the brushing routine. It does not necessarily need to take place in the bathroom. You could just as well brush in bed or on the changing table (let the child lie on its back with the head nearest to you).
A little older child may sit in your lap, leaning the head on your arm. While brushing, use your finger to hold out the cheek to see and reach better.
When brushing is difficult
All children sometimes refuse to brush their teeth. Try not to give up. Perhaps it is better to brush one hour after supper, when the child is not so tired, instead of waiting until bedtime. Use your imagination – make up a tooth story or song, or fight decay (caries) with the toothbrush. One tip for making children stick with brushing is to play their favourite 2-minute song and get them to brush for the whole duration of the song if possible.
Some simple rules that help.
- Always brush before bedtime
- Let the teeth rest between mealtimes.
- If your child takes medicine orally, always rinse with water afterwards.
A good rule is to always go to bed with clean teeth. If the child often falls asleep before you get to brush, brush while the child is sleeping.
- Choose a toothbrush with a small brush head and gentle filaments.
- The handle should fit a small child’s hand, but also the adult helping the child to brush.
- Apply a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, the size of the child’s little fingernail, to the toothbrush.
- Brush the inside, the outside and biting surfaces of the teeth.
- Always brush in the same order, to make sure no tooth surface is forgotten.
- Place the bristles of the toothbrush along the teeth and gum line in a 45° angle.
- Brush with a slight pressure using small, circular movements.
- It is important to clean the gum line area, where bacteria easily build up.
Spit out, don’t swallow -no rinsing out after brushing.
Let the toothpaste residue remain – the toothpaste continues to be active and doing its good work as it remains in your child’s mouth.
Are plaque-‐disclosing tablets helpful?
Plaque-‐disclosing tablets work by dyeing plaque either blue or red and can be very useful at showing you which areas of your teeth that are not being cleaned properly. As the staining can last for some hours, it’s best to use these tablets at bedtime or when you are not expecting visitors! We recommend the occasional use of these products.
What about mouthwash?
Unless specifically recommended by your dentist for a particular reason, there is no place for mouthwashes in a children’s oral hygiene routine
We don’t recommend routine use of mouthwashes in children or adults.