Ask the pediatrician: Teaching teeth brushing
Q. Teaching my 3 year old to brush his teeth is difficult and messy. What can I do to make this easier?
A. It can be time consuming and, yes, it can be quite messy, but kids eventually get to grips with brushing on their own. Be patient and try the following practical suggestions to make brushing more successful and fun – and possibly a matter of routine for your child.
Start early: Hope you started early with your child. No teeth yet? No problem. The simple act of brushing and cleaning the gums regularly is always very useful in getting your child used to brushing.
Brush often: While we focus a lot on bedtime brushing, technically speaking, your goal in brushing your teeth is to clean up food, and the sooner the better. Yet few adults we know make a habit of brushing their teeth throughout the day. If you start having your child brush after meals early in life, you have a much better chance of creating a lasting habit.
Sing, sing a song: Or set a timer. Or find another creative way to keep your child engaged in the act of brushing their teeth for the recommended two minutes, or at least as long as it takes to make sure your and your child’s efforts leave them clean. . Some toothbrushes turn on or play music for the length of time a child needs to keep brushing their teeth, preventing children from believing they have brushed long enough.
Appeal to taste: If Cinderella, the Cat in the Hat, a racing car, or an electric toothbrush similar to yours has a better chance of seducing your child than you do, then oblige them. Feel free to satisfy their tastes by letting them choose toothbrushes and toothpaste that they are truly passionate about. Many flavored toothpastes taste great and make brushing fun.
Do not touch: Around the age at which you are likely to start brushing your teeth, your child is likely to start grasping. By giving them a soft-bristled brush (or two) to have and hold, you’ll be able to avoid a fight for yours, leaving you well-equipped to do the job. Sure, it might take three toothbrushes instead of one, but that’s a small price to pay for a routine that really works.
Go where no child has gone before: We suggest that you pay special attention (and bring your child’s attention) to the teeth that are most likely to be neglected. As you help them brush their teeth, describe what you are doing in terms they can relate to by pointing out their “biting” teeth (the chewing surfaces), their “smiling teeth” (you guessed it – just in front), and the delicate teeth in the back. Your goal: to teach your child not to leave any plaque alone.
How much? All children can benefit from fluoride, but it is important to use the right amount of toothpaste. Current recommendations are to use a smear of fluoride toothpaste (or an amount the size of a grain of rice) for children under 3 years old and an amount the size of a pea for children 3 years old. is 6 years old. Since the fluoride in toothpaste is clearly intended to be drunk but not swallowed, be sure to help or supervise your child while brushing. When they are old enough, tell them to spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
Oral health starts early and all children need access to a dentist for regular care. See your child’s dentist before the first birthday or within six months of the first tooth. During this first visit, your dentist can easily check your child’s teeth and determine the frequency of future dental check-ups and can offer you other tips for easier brushing.