FAQ: How should I brush my child’s teeth?
Brushing your child’s teeth changes as they get older. It’s important to start brushing your child’s teeth at 6 months, or as soon as the first tooth comes in. Make sure to use just a smear of fluoride toothpaste for children age 6mo to 2 years, and a pea size amount for children age 2yrs and older. The easiest way to brush a toddler’s teeth who doesn’t want to cooperate is to lay them on the ground and place their head between your legs and their arms stretched out under your legs (see photo). This allows you to use one hand to lift the lips and the other to brush the teeth without the child interfering with the brushing process. Typically, uncooperative children will only require this position for a week or two, then will realize that brushing will happen regardless of their desire to brush or not. Hopefully, they will allow you to brush their teeth while they are sitting up normally. If you have two people, you can use the “knee-to-knee” position like we use in the office. Have the two caregivers face each other with one holding the child. Parent #1 will wrap the child’s legs around their waist and lean them back into the other parent’s lap. Parent #2 will then brush the teeth while parent #1 holds the child’s hands gently.
Once your children get used to brushing daily, then you stand behind the child for an easier angle and brush their teeth in the bathroom. You can also try brushing their teeth while watching TV if they watch a show at night, or using some other distraction like an engaging toy. Once the child is age 2-9, you can allow them to try to brush their teeth first, and then the parent should brush afterward. Pay special attention to the gumline and the back teeth. Often, you will have to lift the child’s upper lip or lower the bottom lip to be able to brush effectively.
Once the child is around age 10 (some may be ready for independent brushing a little sooner or a little later) then allow the child to brush on their own, but it’s still important to at least check their teeth every few days to make sure they are brushing effectively. If the teeth look orange, or look dull (not shiny) or are “fuzzy”, then there is too much plaque on the teeth. You may need to help your child hit the problem areas and go back to checking the teeth daily.
Hopefully this information will help you and your child to brush well at all ages. If you have any questions, please ask one of our hygienists during your visit, ask Dr. Baxter, or call the office at 205-419-7444.