Cleaning Those Pearly Whites
When to start brushing my child’s teeth?
Once your child’s teeth start erupting, you can begin to clean them by wiping them with a wet washcloth, a tooth wipe or soft child’s toothbrush and a smear of fluoride free baby toothpaste.
Starting at age two or three, you can begin to teach your child to brush. You will still need to brush before or after their turn. Use one hand to draw the cheek away and the other to move the brush in circles or back and forth strokes at a 45 degree angle towards teeth and gums.
For ages 2 and up, a smear of fluoridated toothpaste is recommended. Once your child can spit out the excess paste, a pea sized amount of toothpaste may be used.
When can children brush by themselves?
Children brush by themselves when they have the manual dexterity to tie their own shoelaces or write in cursive, usually around ages seven to eight years old. It is still best to supervise their brushing and help as needed. Brushing two times a day is recommended, once after breakfast, and again before bed.
To help your child learn where to brush, it can be fun to let them rinse with mouth rinse that will “stain” their teeth temporarily and then brush them clean, like Listerine Agent Cool Blue Tinting Rinse or Inspector Hector Plaque Detector.
When should my child brush with fluoride toothpaste?
For children over two years of age, begin to use a small smear of fluoridated toothpaste for your child, unless advised differently by Dr. Mann. Once your child is able to spit the toothpaste, use a pea-sized amount when helping your child brush.
When is it time to start flossing?
If the sides of teeth are touching together, toothbrush bristles cannot reach between to clean. Any spots where teeth are touching should be flossed daily. Baby teeth usually begin to touch around age four, especially between the back molars. In the beginning, a parent will need to floss. As a child gets older, parents can supervise and allow their child to floss. This skill is usually mastered by middle school.
What causes a cavity?
Bacteria in plaque break down sugars to produce acid. If the acid is not removed, the tooth enamel weakens and then breaks down over time, forming a cavity. Brushing and flossing physically remove the sugars, plaque and acid from the teeth.