Brushing your toddler’s teeth can turn into a daily battle. But if you can turn the frontline into a fun time, you’ll win the war. Your toddler will learn teeth-brushing skills that will last a lifetime. Their 20 baby teeth should stay cavity-free and their adult teeth will have the best possible start.
When to Start Brushing Your Child’s Teeth
Most babies have their first tooth erupt between the ages of 6-10 months. Start brushing twice daily as soon as you see the first tooth. By the age of three most children have all 20 baby teeth. Take your baby to the dentist for a ride in the chair soon after their first tooth arrives. If you leave it until your child is three or four years old, they could have tooth decay which needs treatment. Tooth decay is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. With effective dental hygiene and good dietary habits, tooth decay is preventable.
Techniques for Toddler Teeth Brushing
Brushing a baby or young child’s teeth can seem daunting for many parents. Many kids aren’t cooperative so you need to find a technique that works for you both.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Only use a small child’s toothbrush with soft bristles. An adult brush is too big for their small mouth. There are kinds of toothpaste marketed for children from the age of six months. However, it’s not necessary to use toothpaste until your child is at least 18 months old. Until then, just wet the toothbrush without the paste for brushing. From the age of 18 months, use a tiny amount of low-fluoride children's toothpaste. Increase the amount of toothpaste to pea-sized between the ages of 3-6 years.
Best Position to See Inside Their Mouth
Asking a young child to open their mouth wide and tilt their head back as far as possible is an uncomfortable position for most. So the battle begins before you even get the toothbrush close to their mouth. Instead, have your baby or toddler lie on your lap in a bright area so you can have a good look at their teeth while you brush. Here are some tips and tricks when it comes to brushing:
For those children who are old enough to stand, position yourself beside or behind your child. Ideally, choose a spot where they can see themselves in the mirror.
Use your hand to support their chin and ask them to open their mouth wide.
Look around the mouth for signs of brown spots or white lines on teeth and around the gum line. Check there is no build-up of plaque.
Use small circular motions on the front and back of the teeth. On the chewing surfaces, use a forward and backward motion when brushing.
After two minutes, ask your child to spit out any excess saliva or water from the brush. For older children with toothpaste, ask them to spit out the paste but don’t rinse their mouth. The low-dose fluoride will help protect their teeth.
Rinse the toothbrush and let it air dry.
Brushing Teeth Activities for Toddlers
Try some of these activities if your toddler is less than thrilled with having their teeth brushed.
Distract While Brushing
If your child only has you brushing their teeth to focus on, they’re more likely to resist. Try to distract them with something they find more enjoyable. Give your child a toy to hold or play with while you brush their teeth.
Sing a Song or Tell a Story
After six months of parenting, you’re a multi-tasking master. Your hands are full holding and brushing your child’s teeth so use your voice to keep them entertained. You can sing nursery rhymes, tell them a story, or even look for a fun children’s book about brushing teeth. Use plenty of inflection and your child will enjoy hearing your voice, no matter what you’re saying.
Play with a Toothbrush
After you have brushed your baby’s teeth a few times, they will be familiar with the toothbrush and what it’s used for. Let them play with a second toothbrush for short periods while you’re supervising them. Once they have some hand control over the toothbrush, you can start brushing their teeth together.
Make it fun by occasionally letting your toddler brush your teeth first. Instruct them on brushing all sides of your teeth to make them all sparkly clean, then say it’s your turn to brush their teeth.
Add Some Animals
Turn tooth brushing into a virtual tour of the zoo. Ask your toddler to open their mouth wide like a lion or poke out their tongue like a lizard. Ask them to choose which animal it is today.
Use a Mirror
Your child may be a little more cooperative if they can see their teeth being brushed. If the bathroom mirror is too high or involves them standing on a stool that can be adding to their anxiety. Use a mirror on a stand at the kitchen table so they have a close-up view of their mouth.
Be Persistent with Tooth Brushing
Few parents love brushing their child’s teeth. The mornings and nights are busy, and tiring times for everyone. There will be times when no one wants to brush but stick with it.
Crafting an effective approach for teaching your children the importance of oral hygiene at a young age can set life-lasting foundations for healthy teeth. For more information about children's oral cleansing practices or to speak with one of our specialists, make a call to your nearest clinic or contact us online.