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Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth - Topic Overview

Start caring for your child's teeth as soon as you see the first baby (primary) tooth. Some tips on dental care for a child include the following:

  • Clean your baby's first teeth with a clean piece of gauze, a terry cloth washcloth, or a soft-bristled baby toothbrush at least once a day.
  • Brush your child's teeth once or twice a day. It's dangerous if your child swallows too much fluoride. When your doctor or dentist says it's okay, use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and have your child spit out extra toothpaste. Keep all fluoride products, such as toothpastes and mouthwashes, away from your child. Too much fluoride may be toxic and can stain a child's teeth.
  • Flossing is an important part of good dental health. Start flossing your child's teeth when he or she has teeth that touch each other. Talk with your dentist about the right timing and technique to floss your child's teeth and to teach your child to floss. Plastic flossing tools camera.gif may be helpful.
  • From time to time, you may want to use disclosing tablets. Disclosing tablets are chewable tablets that color any plaque that remains after brushing. You can get these tablets at most drugstores.
  • If your child age 6 or older has cavities, ask the dentist if your child should try mouthwash. Do not give your child a mouthwash that contains alcohol. The alcohol can be harmful if swallowed.

How to brush your child's teeth

  • Kneel down behind your child and have him or her stand between your knees, facing away from you.
  • With one hand, gently press your child's head against your chest.
  • With the other hand, brush his or her teeth. You may also push away the upper and lower lips to make it easier to get to the teeth.
  • Pay special attention to where the teeth meet the gums.

Although some children quickly learn to brush their teeth, others do not. If you are having trouble getting your child to brush, try some of the following suggestions.

  • My, what big teeth you have! Many children have a favorite stuffed animal or action figure. Use the toy to explain why it is important to brush. Then, have your child brush the toy's teeth after brushing his or her own teeth.
  • Monkey see, monkey do. Brush your teeth together with your child and do it in stages. You can also switch roles and let your child lead the brushing.
  • Time is on my side. Use a timer or hourglass. Choose a time that lasts for as long as you feel is necessary. Humming a favorite song while brushing can also keep your child brushing longer.
  • Sticks to a card, not your teeth. To reward your child for doing well, make a form that he or she can put a sticker on after brushing. Use a variety of stickers.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 07, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Brushing and Flossing a Child's Teeth Topics

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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