Building a Brusher
As Parents, we want our children to learn independence at an early age. However, brushing their teeth is not a responsibility young children should do independently. Parents need to be actively involved in a child’s oral hygiene at least until they are old enough to tie their own shoelaces. Young children don’t have the hand coordination or attention span to thoroughly brush all the areas of the mouth. Parents often tell us that their child likes to brush on their own or that they do a good job. In reality, children tend to focus on the front area of the mouth and tend to avoid brushing their back teeth. It is most successful to establish a routine where the parent brushes all the teeth and areas of the mouth first. Then, if the child still wants to do it on their own, let them! Encourage them to use the toothbrush in different areas.
When the child reaches an age and maturity level where they can physically brush their own teeth, a parent still should be present. Children often don’t want to brush for the full two minute time period that is recommended. Make it fun! Give the child a timer or look for an app on your smartphone that they can brush along with. When children are engaged in their oral health at a young age it helps establish healthy oral hygiene habits for a lifetime.
There is a right way to brush and floss. Every day:
• Gently brush teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste.
• Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
• Take the time to brush carefully and gently along the gum line.
• Lightly brush the tongue to help keep your mouth clean.
“What type of toothpaste should I use for my toddler?” is a common question. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) advises limiting the amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. The AAPD recommends a “smear” of toothpaste for children younger than 2 years of age and a “pea-sized” amount for children ages 2-5. The toothpaste you choose should contain fluoride even if they are younger than 2 years of age.
Flossing is important for children teeth! Even with supervised brushing the toothbrush is still not able to reach between the teeth. Cavity causing plaque collects between the teeth and the only way to remove this sticky plaque is with floss. Cavities tend to begin to form between the teeth because without regular flossing bacteria are left undisturbed and begin to attack the enamel surface of the tooth. Individual flossers are great for children as an adult can hold onto the handle and still access all of the teeth. Flossing should be done in an up and down motion, not back and forth. It is common to see gum tissue bleed after flossing, especially if it has not been part of the regular oral hygiene routine. Bleeding is a sign of gum irritation and infection. The more often that an individual flosses the healthier the gum tissue will become, because the bacteria count between the teeth is being reduced. The bleeding will decrease.
Be a good role model! Take good care of yourself, as well!