Teaching Oral Hygiene to Children
A good oral hygiene regimen is key to maintaining oral health. The best time to start instilling this routine is during childhood, not only to ensure that you take care of your mouth for as long as possible but so that it’s easier to make it a habit. If you’re a parent trying to teach your child how to take care of their teeth, here are a few tips.
It’s recommended that brushing starts as soon as the first tooth erupts – an infant’s mouth can be cleaned after each feeding by wiping his or her mouth with a clean wet gauze, wet cloth, or xylitol wipe. Be sure to keep their head cradled with one hand while doing this.
As they get older, you can start to brush their teeth with a soft-bristled, age-appropriate toothbrush with water. Fluoride toothpaste is not recommended for infants so talk to your dentist or pediatrician before using it. If it is used, a pea-sized amount is recommended for children ages 2 to 5 and less than that for younger children.
Be sure to supervise brushing as children are learning how to do it properly and provide assistance when needed.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Angle it at 45 degrees towards the gums of the upper and lower teeth and move it gently in a back-and-forth motion with short strokes along the teeth and gums. Continue this movement along every tooth surface.
- To reach behind the front teeth on the top and bottom, use the tip of the brush placed in an upright position.
- Be sure to brush the tongue as well.
- Encourage children to brush at least twice a day (morning and night). A reward chart may be helpful in developing this habit.
- Replace toothbrushes every three to four months, or sooner if you see that it is worn out or frayed.
Children 6-8 years old might be able to brush on their own, though parents should still check their child’s teeth if they are unsure of whether or not some areas have been missed.
Flossing should begin when children have tooth surfaces that are next to each other.
- Use a short length of floss, wrapped between the thumb and index finger, twining it around one finger at each end. Don’t use too much pressure when inserting the floss between the child’s teeth.
- Use a ‘C’ shape to curve around each tooth, sliding the floss gently up and down the side of the tooth and under the gum line.
- Use a new section of floss for each tooth.
- Floss at least once a day; bacterial plaque and food can get lodged between the teeth, which can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and halitosis.