Newborns have a way of taking over your life. You have to fit them into everything you do, and make sure your schedule is always ready to bend for them. So how long after their first teeth appear should you start teaching them how to brush, and what are the best techniques?
Your children’s teeth need to be brushed as soon as they appear. Even though they are temporary teeth, it is still important to keep them clean and healthy.
Strong teeth help children to…
- Chew and digest their food properly.
- Speak clearly.
- Additionally, baby teeth are space holders for the adult teeth that will eventually take their place. Without this guidance adult teeth often grow in the wrong places, an issue that can cost thousands to correct.
It is generally best to clean your child’s teeth for them if they are under 2 years old. You should use a children’s brush, which will have extra soft bristles and a small head, along with a larger handle. Their teeth need to be brushed twice a day, just like yours.
As your child gets older, usually between the ages of 2 and 3, they can start to brush their teeth by themselves. It is important to continue to supervise them to make sure they brush and brush well, but by having them do it themselves you are setting them up to have good oral hygiene for the rest of their lives. Studies show that if you can get a youngster to start brushing, they are significantly more likely to continue the practice as they grow older. However, making your child excited to brush their teeth can be a challenge.
Here are some helpful tips and tricks for teaching your kid to brush:
- Brush at the same time. When they see you brushing it helps them to realize that brushing is not just an elaborate torture you dreamt up for them. Children at this age soak up everything you do, so setting a good example can go a long way towards making them want to, or at least tolerate, brushing.
- Don’t demand perfection. When your kid first starts brushing their own teeth they are not going to do a great job. You need to accept this, and don’t worry, they will improve. If you are worried because your kid is truly awful, consider splitting the brushing duties. Let them practice in the morning, while you brush their teeth in the evening. This way they will continue to improve and get into the habit of brushing, but you can show them the correct way to brush and make sure their teeth get a thorough cleaning.
- Let them pick their own brush and toothpaste. If you bring them with you to the store to pick out their own brush (from the baby brushes, of course) and toothpaste (from the children’s selection) they will feel more involved in the process and more excited to brush, at least initially. Hopefully you can then turn the initial excitement into a long lasting habit. Also, in the same vein, if your kid just doesn’t seem excited to brush, consider getting them and electric brush. They have a certain degree of novelty that kids often find exciting.
- Ask other people to praise their teeth. If they are doing a good job, make sure the dentist tells them. Maybe tell their teacher that since they have been extra good at brushing this week they should give them a small compliment on it. Receiving feedback from a variety of different areas is a good way to build up their confidence in brushing and let them know that it is important.
Dr. Mike Malone and his team practice expert cosmetic dentistry in Lafayette, LA. Dr. Malone is the former president and current accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is also the official Cosmetic Dentist of the Miss Louisiana USA and Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageants. Check out his website for more information.