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Teaching Your Child to Brush and Floss Properly

Teaching Your Child to Brush and Floss Properly

Despite proof that good oral hygiene can promote healthy teeth and overall well-being, tooth decay remains an epidemic among children. About 40% of children have cavities when they enter kindergarten, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).

Instructing your child with the proper techniques and monitoring their progress is key to preventing cavities. Teaching your child how to brush and floss properly at an early age is the best way to help your child remain free of cavities as long as possible.

Pediatric dentist Staci Brunell, DMD, and our staff at Yorktown Pediatric Dentistry in Yorktown Heights, New York, are experts in all aspects of preventive dentistry, including helping children learn how to brush and floss properly. A schedule of dental exams and cleanings every six months ensures that your child is using the proper techniques for keeping their teeth and gums clean and healthy. 

Use these techniques to ensure that you’re helping your child start with the best methods for brushing and flossing.

Set a good example

Your child should start brushing as soon as they develop teeth. Until that time, help your child learn that brushing and flossing are a normal part of daily life. 

Make sure your child has the chance to see you brushing your teeth. Children like to mimic their parents, so observing you brushing your teeth will encourage their interest in doing it for themselves. 

Introduce age-appropriate education

Educate your child about their teeth before they’re old enough to brush on their own. Introduce age-appropriate books and videos to present the importance of daily dental hygiene early so they can learn why we brush and floss our teeth daily. Use a toy toothbrush on their favorite stuffed animals to help them develop an understanding of what it feels like to hold a toothbrush and use it. 

Use the right tools

A child-size soft bristle toothbrush is the most appropriate tool for your child’s first experience with brushing their teeth. Allow them to select their first toothbrush to help them feel included in the process. A toothbrush with their favorite cartoon character or other child-friendly design is likely to get them excited about brushing. 

Introduce the appropriate technique

While your child can start brushing their own teeth as soon as they are old enough to hold a toothbrush, they will need your supervision and assistance until they can master the proper technique. 

Help your child learn to brush using the following steps:

Brush for the right amount of time

The ADA recommends brushing your teeth for two minutes twice daily to maintain proper oral hygiene. Use a timer or sing a song to help your child understand that they have to continue brushing for the specified amount of time.

Introduce proper flossing

In addition to daily brushing, the ADA advises flossing once daily to remove particles between teeth. Introduce flossing when your child has teeth that are close together. 

Younger children with limited dexterity may benefit from using pre-threaded dental flossers. These tools include a plastic U-shaped end that holds a piece of dental floss so your child doesn’t have to wrap it around their finger. 

When your child is ready to hold dental floss on their own, help them to learn the following technique:

Consider a reward system

While you can make every attempt to make brushing and flossing fun, many children are less than enthusiastic about brushing and flossing. Weigh the benefits of using an age-appropriate reward system to encourage their interest and participation. 

Follow up with regular dental visits

Your child’s first dental visit occurs within six months after their first tooth erupts, but no later than their first birthday, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD). Every child has different oral health needs, but twice-annual visits are appropriate to maintain healthy teeth and gums for most children. These visits allow our team to monitor the results of your child’s brushing and flossing. 

Learn more strategies to help your child learn how to brush and floss correctly for a lifetime of proper oral hygiene. Contact our office to arrange a consultation.

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