Dental care: keeping your child’s teeth clean
Brush your child’s teeth twice a day – morning and night. Use a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste on a child-size toothbrush, unless your dentist recommends a higher fluoride strength.
Your child might want to start helping to clean their own teeth. Letting your child hold the toothbrush with you will help your child feel they’re part of the action. But your child needs your help and supervision with cleaning teeth until they’re about 8 years old.
Your child should regularly floss any teeth that touch each other. Also encourage your child to rinse their mouth with water after lunch and snacks. This helps to wash away any leftover food.
The best way to brush your child’s teeth
You might like to try the following routine when brushing your child’s teeth:
- Stand or sit behind your child so your child feels secure. Brushing teeth in front of a mirror is good too, because it lets you see your child’s mouth.
- Cup your child’s chin in your hands, with their head resting against your body.
- Angle the bristles of the toothbrush towards the gum. Move the brush in gentle circles to clean the outer and inner sides of the teeth and gums.
- Brush back and forth on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Gently brush your child’s tongue.
- After brushing encourage your child to spit out toothpaste, not swallow it. There’s no need to rinse after brushing because the fluoride toothpaste left behind protects your child’s teeth.
If you’re using an electric toothbrush, avoid moving the brush in circles. Keep your hand still, and guide the brush across your child’s teeth and gums.
It’s important to choose the right toothbrush – one designed especially for children aged 2-5 years. These toothbrushes have small oval heads, soft bristles of different heights and non-slip, cushioned handles. They also often have cartoons and fun designs on the handle, which your child might like.
The novelty of electric toothbrushes might also appeal to your child. Some electric toothbrushes can give a slightly better clean than manual brushes, but it’s best to go with what your child prefers.
Keeping toothbrushes clean
After cleaning your child’s teeth and gums, rinse the toothbrush with tap water.
Store the toothbrush upright in an open container to allow it to air-dry. You should replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, or when the bristles get worn or frayed.
Toothpaste and fluoride
You can start using a low-fluoride toothpaste on your child’s toothbrush from 18 months of age. Fluoride is a safe mineral that keeps teeth strong and prevents tooth decay.
Most tap water has very low amounts of added fluoride. Fluoride works best when you get it in very small amounts throughout the day in fluoridated tap water, foods and drinks containing fluoride, and low-fluoride toothpaste.