Dental Care for Young Children | Cleaning Teeth


Dental education is a major part of any pediatric dental practice.  Your pediatric dentist can help you and your child understand the importance of daily oral care, but as a parent, you must do it for them in early age and do it with them as they get older. Parents can also get advice on toothpaste selection, diet, thumb-sucking cessation, dental development, and a wide range of related topics, and cleaning teeth in young children is one of them.

When your child starts writing his or her name, your child is ready to do a good job brushing. You should be with them and check to make sure your child does a good job.

Should my child always brush before bed?

Yes. If you don’t get rid of the germs (bacteria) and sugars that cause cavities, they have all night to do their dirty work. Plus, when your child is asleep, he or she does not produce as much spit (or saliva). Saliva helps keep the mouth clean. So brushing at bedtime is very important.

You should start teaching your child how to clean their mouth even before they have teeth. It gets both you and your child into the habit of keeping the mouth clean, and it will establish a clean ground for the teeth to come into. The aim is to wipe all parts of the gums and teeth.

How to do it:

  • Lie down your baby in a comfortable place.
  • Make sure you can easily see into your baby’s mouth.
  • Wipe your baby’s gums and teeth using a soft baby brush or wrap your finger in a clean washcloth.
  • Toothpaste is not needed until your child has teeth.

How to Brush

  1. Make sure to hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth. Point the bristles to where the gums and teeth meet.

2. Do gentle circles and do not scrub. Clean every surface of every tooth. For the front teeth, use the “toe” or front part of the brush. The key word is gentle. You can hurt the gums by brushing too hard.

Toothpaste for Kids

Make sure the toothpaste has fluoride in it. Check the tube or the box for the Canadian Dental Association symbol because this symbol means the toothpaste has fluoride. Use only a bit of toothpaste and make sure your child spits it out.

As excessive swallowing of toothpaste by young children may result in dental fluorosis, children under 6 years of age should be supervised during brushing and only use a small amount of toothpaste.

Children under 3 years of age should have their teeth brushed by an adult. The use of fluoridated toothpaste in this age group is determined by the level of risk. Parents should consult a health professional to determine whether a child up to 3 years of age is at risk of developing tooth decay. If such a risk exists, the child’s teeth should be brushed by an adult using a minimal amount (a portion the size of a grain of rice) of fluoridated toothpaste. Use of fluoridated toothpaste in a small amount has been determined to achieve a balance between the benefits of fluoride and the risk of developing fluorosis. If the child is considered to be at low risk, the teeth should be brushed by an adult using a toothbrush moistened only with water.

Children from 3 to 6 years of age should be assisted by an adult in brushing their teeth. Only a small amount (a portion the size of a green pea) of fluoridated toothpaste should be used.

How to Choose a Toothbrush for Kids

The best kind of brush is soft, with rounded bristles. It should be the right size for your child’s mouth. You will need to buy a new toothbrush at least every 3 or 4 months.

Children can be hard on toothbrushes. If the bristles get bent or worn down, they will not do a good job, and may hurt your child’s gums.

How to Floss

  1. Take a piece of floss about as long as your child’s arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about 2 inches between the hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between the teeth.

2. Slide the floss between the teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape. It should wrap around the base of the tooth, where the tooth meets the gum.

3. Wipe the tooth from bottom to top 2 or 3 times or more, until it is squeaky clean. Make sure you floss both sides of each tooth and don’t forget the backs of the last molars.
Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth. After flossing, roll it up in a tiny ball and put it in the garbage. Never flush floss down the toilet.
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