A healthy smile starts at a very young age. With the right preventive care for your child, he or she can have a better chance of enjoying strong, healthy teeth well into adulthood.
It all starts out with establishing a great brushing routine early on.
Use An Appropriately Sized Toothbrush
One of the biggest mistakes that children (or their parents) make when brushing their teeth, is using a toothbrush that is too large. Sure, the fancy designs and themes can catch your little one’s eye, but try giving them a choice of 2-3 different brushes that are the right size. Check the packaging to make sure.
While a smaller toothbrush is almost always fine to use, a bigger one is not. That’s because the toothbrush head may be too cumbersome to clean around the small curvatures of a growing smile…in fact, it could cause areas to get skipped over altogether!
Apply Toothpaste Properly
Toothpaste commercials make it look like the product should cover the tip of every bristle. But until your child can rinse their mouth effectively, it’s best to stick with a rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste, just in case they accidentally ingest any of it. Older children can use a dab that’s the size of a pea. That’s all anyone needs!
Brush Gently In A Circular Pattern And Along The Gums
The typical tooth brushing pattern that pediatric dentists recommend is a small circular motion. Focus on one or two teeth at a time, brushing in circles across the outer surfaces of the smile while making sure to clean along the gums. Do the same on the inside surfaces, taking care to gently push the tongue out of the way. Finally, brush all of the chewing surfaces, especially on the back teeth.
For younger children who have a difficult time opening (or refuse to open) their mouth, here are a few tricks to try:
- Use two toothbrushes, but with the second one, place the opposite handle end inside of your child’s mouth, so that if they bite down they won’t get your finger.
- Wrap several popsicle sticks on top of one another with a piece of medical tape, and use it as a bite prop if necessary
- Brush one side of the mouth while your child’s mouth is propped open, then switch sides
Over time, practice will make perfect!
Children love to do things by themselves. When it comes to tooth brushing, it’s ok to let independence take flight. However, until your child has the manual dexterity to tie her own shoes, you’ll need to follow up behind her to make sure all of her teeth are getting brushed well enough.
A good routine to try is allowing your child to brush her teeth first thing in the morning and before bed, but at night you follow up behind her and re-brush all of the areas “just to make sure they’re clean.” It’s a good idea if you can do it both times, but before bed is the most important of the two (after all, you don’t want your child going to bed with food particles all over their teeth.)
Set A Timer
Timing is everything when you’re trying to make sure your child’s teeth are being brushed well enough. In general, most people tend to rush through their tooth brushing routine and only spend about 30 seconds on the entire process. Dental experts say that you should brush for a minimum of two minutes each time. Setting a timer could help.
Other fun ideas include brushing to your child’s favorite song, or using a toothbrush with a built-in time indicator that tells you when you’re finished. It’s not a bad idea to use on yourself, either.
Don’t Forget To Clean In-Between
It’s not physically possible for your toothbrush to manually wipe away the bacteria and food particles nestled between teeth. Some children have nice, wide spaces between their primary (baby) teeth before the permanent (adult) teeth erupt into place. These areas are usually easier to clean. But for toddlers or preschoolers whose teeth are tightly packed together, it’s vital to floss the in-between surfaces at least once a day.
Have Routine X-rays Taken On A Periodic Basis
No matter how well you think you’re keeping your child’s teeth clean, there’s always a chance for acids or bacteria to seep into the deep grooves of the tooth enamel or between teeth. Before you realize it, small cavities can start to develop. Without routine assessments or diagnostic X-rays, those cavities can become quite large and invade the surrounding tooth structures. Work with your family or pediatric dentist to schedule prevention-focused dental checkups at least every six months, starting at or before your child’s first birthday.
If you don’t have dental insurance, you may want to consider other options such as a dental savings plan or private dental indemnity plan so that your child still has access to affordable dental care. At Cal Dental Plans, we offer everything from private dental insurance to California discount dental plans that can save you 10-60% on checkups, cleanings, and more. Contact us today to find out how you can start saving!