What should I know about brushing my child's teeth?
How often should I brush my child’s teeth?
I always recommend brushing twice per day, once in the morning and once before bed. The timing of the first brushing isn’t critical – it can be as soon as your child wakes up, before or after breakfast, or before he leaves for school. At night, it is best to brush right before bed. After your child’s teeth have been brushed at night, he should not have anything else to eat, and only water to drink. Rather than fight the food battle at my house, my kids know that if they eat after they brush, they just have to brush again before they go to bed.
Is an electric toothbrush better?
Research studies regarding electric toothbrushes has been flawed – it is almost always performed by the companies that manufacture and sell electric toothbrushes. There’s a more recent study that was designed properly and did actually show that patients brushed better with an electric toothbrush than a manual toothbrush. For kids – I would say use whatever they like. If they don’t like the feeling of an electric toothbrush, there’s no way that they will be as effective with brushing as a manual toothbrush, regardless of what anyone says. Also, even the most expensive toothbrush doesn’t do anyone any good if it’s buried in a bathroom drawer and never gets used. Toothbrush effectiveness is more about time and technique than it is about the tool that you use.
What kind of toothpaste should we use?
I always recommend using fluoride toothpaste. For younger children who are still swallowing the toothpaste, I suggest using a small amount – like the size of one or two grains of rice. Once children are able to spit out the toothpaste, you can increase the amount to the size of a pea. Adult toothpaste has the same amount of fluoride as kids’ toothpaste. The main difference is the flavor, but adult toothpaste can also have additives for whitening, sensitivity, etc. I would try to find a flavor that your child likes, whether it’s fruity kids toothpaste or mint flavored adult toothpaste.
When do we start flossing?
Cavities on the baby teeth are most common in those in-between areas – where two teeth touch. While your first thought might be that flossing is the best way to prevent cavities between the teeth, the research doesn’t support that idea. The best way to prevent any cavity on any surface of a tooth is to drink water and white milk only, avoid sticky sweets and brush twice per day with fluoride toothpaste.
Studies regarding the benefits of floss are very conclusive that floss does help to prevent gum disease, but gum disease tends to be a problem in adulthood, not childhood. I do believe that flossing daily is a great habit for children to get into, but I would never sacrifice time or effort with tooth brushing in order to add floss to their routine. When you feel that your child has mastered tooth brushing, then I think it’s appropriate to encourage flossing daily.