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Here are some rules and guidelines for proper tooth brushing techniques for children:

When should a child begin brushing their teeth?

Parents should begin cleaning a baby’s mouth and gums after meals using a soft toothbrush or clean washcloth even before teeth have breached the gums. This can help keep the gums healthy. Once their first teeth pop in, parents should begin brushing them with a toothbrush and water, and as they become old enough to spit, a small amount of toothpaste. Once they become toddlers and are old enough to hold the toothbrush, you should start having them learn how to brush, though they won’t be able to do it all on their own for several years.

How often should children brush their teeth?

Kids should brush their teeth 2 to 3 times daily, with at least one of these times being before bed. (It’s the most important time, since sending a kid to bed without brushing is a surefire way to encourage cavities.) Other good times are in the morning after breakfast and, if feasible, an extra brushing sometime during midday.

Teaching kids to brush their teeth

“Children don’t have the dexterity to independently brush their teeth until about age 8,” says Joel Berg, a pediatric dentist and vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Dentistry, “but we want parents to help them explore brushing their teeth much younger.” (Klinck, 2010) So when it’s time for children to brush their teeth, divide the time: Have them brush for 30 to 60 seconds on their own, then take over and assist them to ensure they brush all over, especially the back of their mouth and backsides of teeth, which are harder for them to reach. Most kids “tend to brush the same teeth in the front over and over again, but don’t get to the back teeth or the inside surfaces,” says Paul Casamassimo D.D.S., chief of dentistry for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Sheeham, 2013)

If it’s not too awkward, get behind them and hold their hand as they hold the brush. This “mirroring” technique will help them develop the dexterity to reach these spots on their own. The more you practice, the sooner they’ll be able to completely do it by themselves.

Other tips to give kids for brushing their teeth:

A) When your child is done brushing her teeth, have her spit without rinsing or taking a sip of water afterwards. Rinsing can wash away the toothpaste’s residual fluoride content, according to dentist Burton Edelstein, and thus diminishes some of the benefits.

B) The other common problem is that people brush too hard. You want to be brushing – not scouring – your teeth. Tell kids to imagine they are brushing a puppy dog. You want to be thorough yet gentle and not too rough.

C) Kids have a tendency to use too much toothpaste. Teach them to squeeze out a dab that is around the size of a pinto bean or slightly less.

D) Consider getting your child a battery powered tooth brush. Not only will it make brushing more fun for kids, but it requires less manual dexterity, allowing kids to do a better job.

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