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Brushing and Flossing Instructions

Oral Hygiene plays a critical role in preventing cavities for children. Tooth brushing should occur twice daily and flossing one time daily for most children. Both children and adults should use brushes with soft, rounded bristles for gentle cleaning. Tooth brushes should be changed every three months or after any period of illness.

An infant’s teeth may be cleaned gently with a moist soft cloth or infant tooth brush. After every feeding, wipe the baby’s gum tissue to remove residual food and help the child grow accustomed to having their mouth examined. You should begin this oral hygiene routine shortly after birth. As your child’s teeth erupt, brush them gently with a child’s size soft toothbrush and water. Brush the teeth of children over the age of 2 with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. By age 2 or 3 your child will begin wanting to brush on their own. To ensure optimal brushing effectiveness, it is important to assist your child with brushing and flossing at least until the age of 8 years.

Hold the brush at an angle (45 degrees) towards teeth and gums. Move brush back and forth with short strokes.

  • Brush the inside and outside surfaces of each tooth, top and bottom
  • Hold the brush flat on top of the teeth and brush the chewing surfaces
  • Floss between teeth daily


When to begin brushing?

Once your child’s teeth begin erupting, you can begin cleaning them by wiping them with a moist washcloth. As your child gets more teeth, you can begin to use a soft child’s toothbrush. You should use just a pea-sized amount of a non-fluoride toothpaste until your child is able to spit it out.

For most toddlers, getting them to brush their teeth can be quite a challenge.

Some suggestions for making tooth brushing less of a battle can include:

  • Establish a “tooth brushing routine”
  • Let your child brush your teeth at the same time
  • Let your child pick out a few toothbrushes with a favorite character, and then allow a choice of which one he or she wants to use each time (this will give your child some feeling of control over the situation)
  • Allow your child to brush his or her own teeth first (and then you get a turn)
  • Read some children’s books about tooth brushing
  • Have everyone brush their teeth at the same time


Adolescence and oral care

As children transition into adulthood, their dental needs change.

There is evidence that demonstrates how periodontal disease may increase during adolescence due to lack of motivation to practice routine oral hygiene. Children who maintain good oral health habits up until the teen years are more likely to continue brushing and flossing than children who were not taught proper oral care.

Dental cavities increase in teens because of changes in dietary habits, lack of motivation for good oral hygiene habits, increased demands in school work and social arenas and experimental drug use. These topics are discussed with the dental assistant and doctor according to individual need.

Young adults differ from children in their overall dental needs. Many of our adolescent patients have orthodontic appliances and are instructed on preventing cavities that can easily develop around the braces. Wisdom tooth removal is a big concern for this age group. The dentists at Dentistry for Kids can provide literature and ease the fears of oral surgery. Sealants are recommended when all the permanent teeth erupt to protect the chewing surfaces. Some teens require mouthguards for sports or more involved treatment considerations such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction.

These topics and more are addressed and planned for treatment with our teen patients and their parents. We have found that motivating teens to be knowledgeable about their own dental needs leads to long-term health of the permanent teeth into adulthood. Please refer to the following American Dental Association link for teen related topics, videos, and additional resources (i.e. careers in the dental profession, cosmetic dentistry, halitosis, oral piercing, smoking/tobacco, etc.)


Tips for parents

Early diagnosis is important for successful treatment of periodontal diseases. Therefore, it is important that children receive a periodontal examination as part of their routine dental visits. Be aware that if your child has an advanced form of periodontal disease, this may be an early sign of systemic disease. A general medical evaluation should be considered for children who exhibit severe periodontitis, especially if it appears resistant to therapy.

An important step in the fight against periodontal disease is to establish good oral health habits with your child.

Establish good oral health habits early. When your child is 12 months old, you can begin using non-fluoridated toothpaste when brushing his or her teeth. However, only use a pea-sized portion on the brush and press it into the bristles so your child won’t eat it. When the spacing between your child’s teeth begins to close, it is important to start flossing.

Serve as a good role model by practicing good oral health care habits yourself. Be sure to maintain regular cleaning and exam visits.

Schedule regular dental visits for family checkups, periodontal evaluations and cleanings.

Check your child’s mouth for the signs of periodontal disease, including bleeding gums, swollen and bright red gums, gums that are receding away from the teeth and bad breath.

If your child currently has poor oral health habits, work with your child to change these now. It’s much easier to modify these habits in a child than in an adult. Since your child models behavior after you, it follows that you should serve as a positive role model in your oral hygiene habits. A healthy smile, good breath and strong teeth all contribute to a young person’s sense of personal appearance, as well as confidence and self-esteem.