Toddler Teeth Brushing
Toddlers should have their teeth cleaned twice a day. Parents should use water and a soft-bristled toothbrush until the age of 2 or 3. Fluoridated toothpaste should be introduced when a child is 2 to 3 years of age, consistent with the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s guidelines. They also recommend that a child have their first visit to the dentist by their first birthday.
When brushing your toddler’s teeth, use a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and no more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. You should supervise brushing to be sure that the toddler spits the toothpaste out after brushing instead of swallowing the excess. If your toddler has not learned to spit out excess toothpaste, try buying non-fluoridated toothpaste. Ask your pediatrician or pediatric dentist about safe, fluoridated mouth rinses which can be used in conjunction with non-fluoridated toothpastes, especially if your drinking water is not fluoridated.
It is normal to encounter some resistance to teeth brushing with toddlers. Whether it’s getting them to practice brushing on their own or you trying to brush their teeth for them, toddler tooth brushing can be a struggle.
Tips for Getting Reluctant Toddlers to Brush
- Be a good role model. Let your toddler watch you brush and floss your teeth regularly and properly. Brush your teeth in a circular motion after explaining proper brushing techniques.
- Get your toddler a fun electric toothbrush. There are dozens on the market and children can select their favorite colors or characters. They are actually more effective than standard toothbrushes and children love using them.
- Set a musical timer for two minutes so that children will get in the habit of brushing for the recommended length of time.
- Engage your toddler’s imagination. Read stories with characters that love tooth brushing, or put on a puppet show with a loveable character demonstrating proper teeth brushing.
- Use a simple reward system. A colorful sticker after every successful brushing session is a great incentive.
Remember, the idea is to encourage healthy dental hygiene habits in your toddler, as well as prevent tooth decay. Children are not able to sufficiently clean their own teeth until they are around 6 or 7 years of age, so let them have a go at it then follow it up with your own thorough cleaning. This helps them develop a sense of independence and autonomy, while learning lifelong dental hygiene.