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Toothbrushes 101 for Children

Picking the right toothbrush for your kids helps promote better dental health and encourage stronger oral hygiene habits.

Dr. Esther Yang, pediatric dentist at Texas Children’s Hospital

With the various new toothbrushes available on the market, it is difficult to know how to choose the right one for your child at every stage in life.

Oral hygiene should begin as early as infancy. It is important to get into a habit of cleaning your infant’s mouth from debris as early as possible. Even after simple feedings such as milk, using a wet washcloth to gently wipe down your child’s gums and tongue goes a long way to promote their oral health.

Once they have the eruption of their first few teeth, use the baby finger toothbrush which generally fits over the caregiver’s index finger. This will allow you to clean your baby’s teeth and gums quickly and gently.

As your child develops their baby molars, transition to a small baby toothbrush to brush the back molars and all surfaces of the teeth. Small toothbrushes allow parents to access the back teeth easily. Don’t be in a hurry to fit the largest toothbrush in your child’s mouth.

Picking a child’s toothbrush that is age-appropriate is the most important thing to keep in mind. Most toothbrush manufacturers designate specific age groups on the packaging making it easier for parents to know which brushes they should consider. Other important things to look for are soft, nylon bristles. Softer bristles tend to be easier on the gums. The goal is to find a brush that will help you keep your child’s teeth clean, not one that will make their gums bleed. Additionally, choose a brush that has the American Dental Association’s Seal of Approval.

Electrical Toothbrushes Versus Manual Toothbrushes

Often, electric toothbrushes have a timer so it promotes longer brushing. Brushing longer is one of the proven benefits of an electrical toothbrush if the patient complies with the timer. When comparing cleansing ability, they are both effective in removing plaque and food debris. However, be on the lookout for any possible recalls on electrical toothbrushes as it is not uncommon for them to be recalled because of mechanical errors. Keep in mind, most manufacturers do not recommend electrical toothbrushes for children under the age of 4.

Keeping Toothbrushes Clean

After brushing, thoroughly rinse the toothbrush to remove all residual toothpaste and debris. Once rinsed, squeeze out as much water as possible and leave them upright to air dry.

It is recommended to brush at least twice a day. After such frequent usage, a toothbrush may become frayed and worn. The American Dental Association recommends replacing toothbrushes every three to four months. It is also important to remember to throw out toothbrushes if your child used them during a cold or infection, thus avoiding transferring germs back into their system.

Refrain from sharing toothbrushes. Toothbrushes are exposed to body fluids such as saliva and blood. Body fluids can transmit infectious diseases, viruses and other bacteria. Each child should have his or her own toothbrush and they should be clearly marked as their own.

Making it Fun

If your child is having difficulty brushing and can only brush once a day, begin incorporating brushing at night. Once the child is used to brushing at night, work on adding morning brushing as well. Most importantly, have fun with brushing and make it part of your child’s daily routine. Adult supervision is paramount in effective dental hygiene and an excellent bonding activity. Healthy habits help lead to a healthy lifestyle!

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