Your child’s baby teeth may be temporary, but they still play an important role in the way the mouth develops as the permanent teeth begin to erupt. Getting an early start on dental hygiene helps to set the stage for a lifetime of good oral health habits!

Introducing basics like brushing and flossing is one of the best ways you can influence your child’s oral habits for the better, and we want to help you get it right. Here are some tips on when, and how, to teach your child good oral hygiene for a healthy mouth.

Start brushing early

You can begin a nightly routine of cleaning your child’s mouth even before they have teeth by softly rubbing their gums with a clean, soft cloth. Once the baby teeth do begin to erupt, you can use a soft-bristled child’s toothbrush with no bigger than a rice- or pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. It is the brushing action of the toothbrush bristles that cleans the teeth, not the amount of toothpaste. While we generally recommend that you continue brushing for your child until he or she has the dexterity to do it unassisted, usually around 5 or 6 years old, you can still emphasize the basics of brushing as you go.

  • Brush all the teeth, every time you brush.
  • Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle gently against the gum line.
  • Brush from the base of the tooth up to the chewing surface.
  • Use short, round strokes for the front and the back of teeth.
  • Use short, sweeping strokes for the chewing surfaces.
  • Be consistent when brushing across each tooth – give equal time to all teeth and do not brush certain teeth longer than others.
  • Brush the tongue and roof of the mouth.

Thorough brushing should take two minutes or longer. To avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque, brush your child’s teeth for at least two minutes twice daily, using the technique described above. We recommend that you give your child a new toothbrush every three to four months, whenever the bristles appear worn, or if your child gets sick.

Keep flossing simple

As long as your child’s teeth are touching, they need to be flossed. Children’s back teeth often touch, and it is in these teeth that we frequently see cavities. Teaching your child to floss can be tricky, but it is an important step in overall oral health. With a little bit of patience, and some help from our tips below, you can show your child how to prevent tooth decay and gum disease by ridding their mouths of any food and plaque that has settled in between the teeth.

  • Choose floss that’s soft and gentle on your child’s gums. Flavored floss tastes good and can help hold their interest.
  • Measure a length of floss that runs from about your fingers to your elbow.
  • Wrap the floss around your child’s fingers as you would your own when flossing, paying close attention to not wrap it too tightly.
  • Gently guide your children’s fingers, showing them how to glide the floss in between the teeth.
  • Show them how to make the floss into a “C” shape and curve it beneath the gum line, taking care to not press too hard or dig too deep.
  • Teach them to shift the floss to the next finger between each tooth so that fresh floss is being used in each space.

There are also a wide variety of child-friendly floss sticks available in a variety of colors, shapes, and flavors. These tend to be easier for little hands to use, but they are not reusable, so make sure your child disposes of the floss stick after each use.