Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Brushing My Child’s Teeth: How Can I Help?

By: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP

Did you know that October is National Dental Hygiene Month? It’s actually good timing, especially since children will be chowing down on their fair share of candy this weekend! The extra candy gives us an even better reason to think more about brushing teeth! Many parents of young children ask: “What is the best method for brushing my child’s teeth?” Well, often a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are a few photographs of different positions and methods that parents and caregivers can use to help young children with toothbrushing!  

Photos courtesy of Joanna Douglass, BDS, DDS

In the photo on the left, the adult sits in a chair while brushing the child’s teeth from behind. The child stands and leans back on the caregiver’s lap, using the adult’s legs for balance. See how the adult carefully stabilizes the child’s head, gently lifting or lightly pressing the lips away from the teeth with one hand, while brushing the teeth with the other? This actually makes it much easier for the adult to brush all surfaces of the teeth while the child still feels secure and won’t squirm away. Looking down at the child’s mouth from behind makes the child’s teeth more accessible to the brush, especially at the gum line where sticky plaque is most likely to build up in that space between the teeth and the gums. The plaque is the build up of sticky germs mixing with food/drink on all the surfaces of the teeth. Plaque eventually breaks down tooth enamel if it is allowed to stay on the teeth. The plaque on the surfaces of the teeth needs to be brushed away twice a day: in the morning and at night, right before your child goes to bed.

In the photo on the right, this toddler is allowed to stand up, probably on the couch, while the mom holds the child’s hands during brushing. After all, who says you have to brush your child’s teeth standing in front of the sink in the bathroom? You don’t! Use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste and your child does not need to spit it out, so you can brush your child’s teeth anywhere in your home, maybe when your child is sitting in her highchair, playing in the bathtub, or joining you on the couch. 

Here are the most current guidelines from the American Dental Association: 
  • For children younger than 3 years, caregivers should begin brushing children’s teeth, with a soft child-sized toothbrush, as soon as teeth begin to come into the mouth. Use a fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice. 
  • Brush teeth thoroughly twice per day (morning and night) or as directed by a dentist or physician. 
  • For children 3 to 6 years of age, caregivers should apply no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste to the soft toothbrush.  
  • Adults should assist with toothbrushing until age 7 or 8.
  • Replace toothbrushes when bristles appear worn (usually after 3-6 months)
How old were your children when you started to brush their teeth? Did they enjoy it? Have any tips to share on how you brushed their teeth?

References: 
Fluoride toothpaste efficacy and safety in children younger than 6 years: A systematic review. J. Timothy 
Wright, Nicholas Hanson, Helen Ristic, Clifford W. Whall, Cameron G. Estrich and Ronald R. Zentz, JADA 2014; 145(2):182-189. 
Fluoride Toothpaste Use for Young Children, American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs, JADA 2014; 145(2):190-191. 

About the Author: Amy Requa, MSN, CRNP, CPNP-PC, is a board certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner. She has 20 years of experience in public health nursing, maternal and child health, family and community health promotion and has extensive health expertise in oral health, childhood obesity prevention and child nutrition. Click here to learn more about Amy.

60 comments :

  1. We started brushing as soon as the kids got teeth. Good oral care is so important!

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    1. Starting early helps develop lifelong habits. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. We started as soon as my kids got teeth too--So important! Thanks for the great info

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  3. My kiddos started brushing their teeth (or at least mimicking the motion) before they even had any. They were really good about practicing, but then they seem to falter for a bit between the ages of 5-12! lol It's more of a reminder battle for me at this point!

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    1. There's a lot of things going on for kids and most don't understand the importance of good dental hygiene. Keep those reminders coming.

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  4. The first photo is exactly how our dentist recommended that we brush our little ones teeth. Great reminder!

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  5. Thanks for sharing! My daughter and I just had a dental visit last week. It's important to take great care of our dental health.

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    1. You're welcome! Hope your visit went well!

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  6. Great post - I am lucky in that Pickle (who has just turned 3) is good at having his teeth brushed. Kaz x

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    1. You are lucky! 3 is a hard age for everything!

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  7. Good oral health at an early age is crucial to great oral health as adults! Thanks for sharing this awesome post :)

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  8. Hey Amy, informative post. I thought the child on the right seemed to be enjoying the teeth brushing session. I have seen so many kids want to skip out on this part of their day, so we have to be onto them. I don't know how many times I have heard parents say - have you brushed your teeth for the little people to say yes either too fast or having left no evidence of their toothy pegs being cleaned. I wonder why kids don't like the regularity of a fresh mouth. Thanks for a great post.

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    1. Kids just don't understand the importance of a healthy smile. That is Choosy Kids mission though! Just have to keep spreading the information!

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  9. Great move, starting to learn oral hygiene habits so early! Thanks for sharing this!

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  10. It's so important we get our kids into the habit of practicing good oral health care. I started my kids when they were a year old. The boys gave me the most resistance then my girls. Now my daughter is having the same issue with one of her boys :).

    Informative post with great tips. Thanks for sharing!

    Cori

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  11. Dental care is definitely important. Kids have to learn that their teeth needs to be taken care of. Especially when their permanent teeth starts to show up.

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    1. Exactly! We are lucky to have two "sets" of teeth. It is like we get a second chance to care for them.

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  12. This is really helpful. We were on top of the kids' oral hygiene from the get-go. We usually had the kids stand up and look in the mirror while we brushed their teeth.

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  13. especially important if your kiddos have braces! I have three kids in braces now and my girls are great - but my son - oh man. He is the worst at cleaning his teeth properly.

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    1. Ah braces! A whole other level of brushing!! Good luck to them!

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  14. Hey nice post. Though I don't have kids but enjoyed reading your post.

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  15. I love this post. When my kids are have teeth we start brushing them. but sometimes it gets hard they don't want to clean their teeth

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    1. Kids just need a little help when it comes to brushing. Keep up the good work!

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  16. Great post. We just took our kids to the dentist and glad that they didn't find any problem

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    1. Congratulations on not having any problems!! That is awesome!

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  17. I remember when my son was a little baby, he started brushed his teeth at 1 year old, and when he was turned in 2 year old he can brushed his teeth by himself.

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    1. That is awesome, Nikki. How old is he now and does he still enjoy brushing?

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  18. We started brushing my kids' teeth as soon as the first teeth appeared. Prior to that I cleaned their tongues and gums with a wet cloth.

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  19. It's always a wise thing to do when brushing teeth to kids in early age.

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  20. Our youngest (21 months) was so good with brushing his teeth for awhile, and now he's terrified. Our 4 year old is so good at it!

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    1. Awe poor kid that is scared. Wonder why? Hopefully he sees how much his sibling likes to do it and starts to love it again. You could also introduce Choosy from www.choosykids.com to him and see if that helps! There are some great songs that go along with brushing too!

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  21. My granddaughter is 2 and she is doing such a great job at brushing. I really think it's important to teach them good oral health.

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  22. My daughter is obsessed with her teeth being brushed! It's so strange to me... She asks 52782 times a day.

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    1. That is so funny! At least she loves caring for her teeth!

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  23. We've been trying to get our little one to brush his teeth. Some days it's a struggle.

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    1. You'll have that. As any parent would say, pick your battles wisely:)

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  24. We started using the little finger brush as soon as their teeth popped in. Then, as they got older, we would sit them on the bathroom counter & brush it for them. I think they were about 5 when they started doing it on their own but we would sit with them to make sure they were doing it properly. It is SO important!

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    1. The finger brushes are awesome! Keep up the great brushing!

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  25. I do good with the older ones, but the baby usually gets put to bed before I remember.....I'm working on this. He loves when we brush them, so we just need to get into a better routine.

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    1. Routine can be hard to develop or even add to! Just keep trying!

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  26. I still sometimes help my 7 year old.. just to check that he is doing a good job!

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    1. The older they get the faster the brushing seems to get, right? Always good to do the in home check up!

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  27. My kids have always loved brushing their teeth and my son still has awful teeth, its the worst! And he is now pickier about the flavor of toothpaste...but we often brush in front of the tv...I can get them to sit longer for it :)

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  28. We started brushing my son's teeth as soon as he had them! He's never really fought us about it. He's been seeing a pediatric dentist every 6 months since he was 14 months old too. His dentist says he's fine with a non fluoride toothpaste for now (he's 3).

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  29. Great tips! I didn't know adults were supposed to help until 7 or 8. I've been getting on my 6-year-old's case for not brushing his own teeth, so now I guess I have to give him a break ;) Thank you for all the tips!

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  31. Make it Fun: Think of creative ways to make brushing your teeth fun. For example, listening to fun sounds or songs while brushing can help make the entire experience a pleasant, and even fun one. Develop a Reward System: Children should brush their teeth twice a day and floss daily, so try keeping track of your child's brushing on a calendar by the sink with gold stars. If there are two stars at the end of the week, play their favorite game on Friday night as a special prize.
    Make Brushing Time Family Time: At night, get together in the bathroom to brush our teeth for the recommended two minutes. Play your favorite song (which is usually around two minutes) and brush together for the duration of the song.
    Get Kids in the Right Frame of Mind for the Dentist: Dentists recommend dental checkups every six months, which can be scary for many children. So prepare them beforehand. Give them an idea of what to expect; try using picture books or do some role-playing exercises to explain to kids what to expect during a dental visit. After the visit, reward them for good behavior with their favorite television show or a fun activity.
    Bring Variety to Brushing: Let your children choose different kinds of fluoride toothpaste, toothbrushes and floss to keep in the bathroom so that they can have options each time they brush.

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  32. This info is really helpful. I began to brush my daughter’s teeth as soon as she started teething. First it was quite difficult but soon was okay with experience. In between she got some dental problem so consulted to Torrance dentist. His advice was really helpful and I really loved his service.

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