One of the questions that we are most frequently asked by parents is “what should I be doing?” or, maybe more commonly, we get baffled looks when we ask Mom and Dad about their child’s at-home dental routine. That’s okay! We know that between crazy after-school schedules, bedtime routines, the 18th trip to the bathroom and one more goodnight kiss teeth can get lost in the mix. (And let’s be honest, teeth weren’t the first thing you thought about when you brought your bundle of joy home!) Dr. Kifer and Dr. Bowen follow the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s (AAPD) recommendation of brushing twice a day for two minutes, including on kids. If the details are a little fuzzy, here are a few suggestions broken down by age to get you started:
Dental Care For Newborns - Year One
As soon as your child has teeth, the AAPD recommends brushing his or her teeth with a soft toothbrush, preferably at bedtime. The perfect toothbrush has a small head that will be easy to maneuver in your little one’s mouth. Ideally, brushing your infant or toddler’s teeth will be the very last thing you do before putting him or her to bed so that teeth are plaque-free overnight. (Avoid nursing or bottle-feeding to sleep.)
Toddler To Age Six Help
Oh my, what opinions you have! By the time all of your child’s teeth erupt (usually around the age of two or just after), your toddler probably has VERY definite thoughts about what he or she wants to do. Independence can be great, but not when it comes to the toothbrush! Dr. Kifer and Dr. Bowen recommend letting your child attempt brushing for the first few seconds, but Mom or Dad needs to finish (the full two-minute brushing) to ensure that all tooth surfaces are cleaned properly.
**If your toddler is resistant, here is a great video Dr. Bowen’s friend made to demonstrate proper brushing on a resistant toddler. (That’s her own son!)
Ages 6 – 9
By the time your child reaches age six, they probably have a good idea of the nighttime routine at your house. Often at this age parents relinquish the brushing responsibility to their child; however, it is important that you keep-on-keeping-on! As you’ve noticed with other fine motor skills like hand writing, cutting with scissors, and lace-up shoes (hello, Velcro, we love you!), little fingers still don’t quite have the control that adult fingers do. We recommend letting your child brush first, but Mom or Dad should still “finish” until fine motor skills are mastered. Usually this is around age 9, at which point your child can be an independent brusher with only a visual check.
Visual checks recommended! We all get in a hurry, especially when we are 11 and have been promised that we can stay up twenty minutes past bedtime to play another round of Banagrams. Make sure your child is brushing effectively by doing visual checks after every brushing (especially bedtime).
What about toothpaste?
As with adults, fluoridated toothpaste is best! Children under two only need a smear of toothpaste on their brush, and children 3-6 should use a pea-sized amount. (see below) Older children should spit out any excess. Rinsing is not encouraged as all of that good fluoride is rinsed away, too!