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By Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer

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Topics: Pediatric Dentistry

You love your kids and are constantly worrying about their health. This goes double for their teeth and overall oral health since you read that cavities are on the rise in children. You do what you can to limit their sugar intake, but there’s only so much you can avoid. Teaching your children to regularly brush and floss is important.

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But how do you go about teaching them these important life skills that will give them a strong, healthy smile they can be proud of forever? If you start early, you’ll embed oral hygiene as a necessary routine in their lives, one they will carry forward as they grow up.

Here is some information you need to know about teaching your children to brush and floss, when to start, and all the proper techniques.


When to Start?

No teeth? No problem! Make sure to keep your baby’s gums free of food and bacteria by wiping them with a damp cloth after feedings. But without teeth, there’s nothing to teach yet.

Once that first tooth comes in, however, it’s time to start brushing! You’ll be doing all the work until your child is old enough to participate, but from about six months to three years old, use a small amount of fluoride (about the size of a grain of rice) and brush twice daily. Once your child’s teeth start to touch, it’s time to begin flossing as well.

Continue to be an active participant in your children’s brushing habits until they are old enough to hold the brush themselves, at which point continue to encourage them to brush twice a day to prevent cavities.

Make sure you take your children to the pediatric dentist for the first time by their first birthdays or when their teeth start coming in to ensure their dental health is on track.


Proper Brushing Technique

When it comes time to let your child manage his or her own brushing (usually the time your child becomes able to hold the toothbrush alone), these are the important tips you should teach.

  • Make sure to brush for two minutes, twice a day (usually after breakfast and before bed).
  • Brush using gentle, short strokes and make sure to spend time brushing the outsides, insides, and tops of all teeth.
  • Make sure your child isn’t pushing too hard—brushing with too much vigour can cause the enamel of teeth to be damaged.
  • Get your child to finish each brushing session by brushing the tongue, too.

Proper Flossing Technique

Once the teeth start to touch, it becomes equally important to begin flossing, too. Just like with brushing, you’ll be doing most of the work until your children are old enough to hold the floss on their own.

To teach flossing, get your child to wrap floss around each pointer finger. Slide the floss between two teeth and let it slide up and down the side of the teeth. For kids, it’s a good idea to use a small piece of floss and use a new one for each crevice in order to avoid debris getting back in between the teeth. Later, when they’re older, you can teach your children to use a longer string of floss and wind and unwind between fingers.


Building Healthy Habits

You want your children’s lifelong habit to be reaching for the toothbrush. Pair the act of practicing with children’s books about brushing and flossing, and make sure to have regular dental visits.

The best way to ensure your children have healthy smiles that last long into their adult years is to lead by example. Make brushing time a family affair. Eventually, proper oral hygiene habits will stick with your kids, and one day, they’ll be teaching their own children.


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Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer

Dr. Saleh Al-Daghreer, BDS, PhD, FRCD (C), an Edmonton Orthodontist who is a registered specialist and a fellow of the Canadian Royal College of Dentists of Canada in the specialty of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics. He received his undergraduate degree in Dentistry in 2003 and his PhD in Orthodontics in 2012 from the University of Alberta. He founded City Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry to provide care in the City of Edmonton.

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