Toothbrushes in a jar

Essential Life Skills: Toothbrushing for Children

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Learning how to brush your teeth as a child is an undeniable essential life skill. Regular toothbrushing is as crucial for you as an adult as it is for your developing tot. It helps to remove tooth decay-causing bacterias and plaque and prevents painful gum disease. 

The catch, you need to brush your teeth at least twice a day for just two minutes. That’s just 4 minutes of your day – once in the morning and just before bedtime. 

What’s more, it’s never too early to introduce regular toothbrushing to your child so that they quickly adapt it into their daily routine. But, to encourage their development, your child will need you to guide and help them with this new skill. Read on to discover some handy toothbrushing tips:

When to start brushing your child’s teeth

Your child’s mouth is a sensitive part of their body. From painful sore, red gums to their first tooth appearing and beyond, keeping your tot’s mouth clear of food debris and decay-growing bacteria is crucial. 

But when do you start brushing? Well, as early as possible! 

Each time your baby drinks breast of formula milk, sugary deposits are left sitting on their gums. While everyone has a range of bacteria living in their mouths, leaving them to build up en masse can lead to potential dental problems further down the line. 

Simply use a soft, moist cloth, baby dental wipe, or a chewable toothbrush to gently brush or wipe their gums. 

Why are milk teeth important? 

It’s common knowledge that before your permanent adult teeth grow, you have a set of twenty milk or primary teeth as a child. While your tot may be holding out for the tooth fairy, there are several reasons why their milk teeth are important:

  • Space savers: children have a smaller jaw than adults, so each of their milk teeth works as space savers as they grow and develop. Without them, your child’s face structure would be affected too
  • Eating: without milk teeth, your tot would struggle to chew and get the much-needed vitamins and nutrients from their food
  • Speech development: combined with your tongue, your teeth help you to speak and form the shape of words with your mouth
  • Placeholders: milk teeth act as placeholders for your adult teeth to grow into

Introducing a toothbrush to your baby

As soon as your baby’s first tooth appears (usually around the 6 to 12-month mark), you can start brushing their teeth twice a day. While brushing their teeth is essential at this stage, establishing it as part of their everyday routine is the most crucial factor. 

Start by sitting your baby on your lap, with their head slightly tilted back, so that they feel as comfortable as possible. Then, use gentle circular strokes over each of your tot’s teeth, with no more than a smear or rice grain amount of fluoride toothpaste (no less than 1,000 ppm fluoride) on their baby toothbrush. 

Although we naturally want to rinse away all the toothpaste from our mouths, encourage your child only to spit out the toothpaste so that the fluoride can get to work strengthening their tooth enamel. 

The power of choice

Allowing your child to choose their own toothbrush is an empowering thing. With a range of kids toothbrushes available, from baby electric to flashing light timers and more, there is plenty for your tot to choose from. 

Throw in the range of character brushes, such as Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig, My Little Pony and more, and your little one will be thrilled to use their new brush! 

While you might be happy with your standard minty fluoride toothpaste, your child’s palette is much more sensitive. Let them try out a few different flavours to find out which one works best for both of you. There’s everything from mild mint to bubblegum, apple and strawberry to chocolate! 

Always read the product information on the label to ensure you pick an age-appropriate toothpaste for your child. 

Take a trip to the dentist

Introducing your child to the dentist early on will ensure they build up a good relationship and understanding of what is involved in the dentist’s chair. It’s recommended that all children visit the dentist before their first birthday or just after their first tooth has appeared. 

Dentists have years of professional knowledge. By simply looking into your tot’s mouth, they will be able to spot any potential problems early on and give you the best tips and advice to avoid tooth decay and more. 

What’s more, you can simply take your baby with you to your appointment. Most dentists are happy to include your child’s appointment as part of your own. 

Fun brushing activities 

Sometimes we all need that extra bit of encouragement, and your child is no different. Learning how to brush your teeth is something that takes time, but with the right help from you, your child will quickly pick up good toothbrushing habits that will set them up for life. 

Have you ever noticed how often your baby watches you? They look at you when you speak to them and to others, how you move and engage with your surroundings. So show them how it’s done! Let your tot see how you brush your teeth – the movements you make, how you apply toothpaste to your brush, and even how you spit into the sink. 

Let your baby hold their toothbrush. They will likely munch on the bristles, but don’t worry. At this stage, they are just getting used to the feel and weight of it. If you stay as bright and breezy as possible, your child will quickly learn that this is a positive activity.

You may want to sing a toothbrushing song or make up a dance or story as you brush your teeth together. The more your child develops their brushing technique, you may want to offer them a sticker reward chart so they can watch their progress unfold. 

Toothbrushing is an essential life skill. The earlier you introduce brushing into your little ones routine, they’ll quickly form good toothbrushing habits for life!

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