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How and When Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?

All About Brushing!
Oral hygiene is one of the most important daily tasks that we as parents must take care of for our children. Here are some important questions and answers, which can help you and your child to take care of their teeth starting at an early age. Prevention is the best thing that we can offer our children.
How and When Should I Start Brushing My Child’s Teeth?
You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first one erupts (around 6 months of age plus/minus 3 months). At that point you can use a rubber finger brush with water or even some wet gauze to wipe the tooth after feedings. This can be done until they have about 8 teeth.
After about 8 teeth are in the mouth a small sized soft baby toothbrush can be used once again with water or you can continue using the rubber finger brush.
Once there are about 16- 20 baby teeth (20 is a full complement of baby teeth; by 2 years old a child will have about 16 teeth except the second baby molars which are all the way in the back and can erupt anywhere between 2-3 years old on average) a soft toothbrush can be used with a fluoride free training toothpaste.
When the child has about 10 or less teeth, wiping them with a gauze after all liquid feedings is a great way to reduce risk of baby bottle decay and limit the amount of plaque and sugar that can accumulate on your child’s teeth.  Otherwise, brushing should be done twice a day; morning and night.
Once a child can completely spit out the toothpaste (3-4 years old), fluoride toothpaste can be used but simply a pea sized amount, no more than that.
If you feel that your child is at an increased risk for cavities due to poor brushing or diet, a smear of fluoride toothpaste may be used after the age of 2. However, the remainder of the toothpaste should be wiped off since at that age a child most likely will not be able to rinse and spit.
Flossing should be done in area of where two teeth are completely touching each other. At about age 3-4 the back baby molars will come together and make contact. At this point you should try to floss that area on all 4 sides of the mouth. Kid’s floss picks are the easiest and simplest way to floss those areas. You will probably be
doing the flossing for your child up until age 8/9 because before then kid’s don’t have the manual dexterity to be able to floss correctly by themselves.
Flossing should be done each and every night but if it is a great effort for you and your child, at least several times a week is acceptable.
Should My Child Use a Mouthwash?
Mouthwashes are once again for those children that can rinse and expectorate; Usually around age 4-5. Mouthwashes will only benefit your child but will not hurt them unless swallowed. Usually a mouthwash is not used unless your child is at risk or already has multiple cavities or fillings in the mouth. At that point a fluoride rinse can be used.
There are also excellent disclosing agent mouthwashes available. These special mouthwashes stain your child’s teeth in the areas that they missed. Its like an educational tool for them to learn how to properly brush.
What if my child doesn’t want to brush or doesn’t allow me to brush?
Here are some of the ways in which your child might better understand and allow for brushing.
1)     You can stand behind your child a try to somewhat put their head in a semi headlock with your left arm while also using that hand to retract the cheek open and then use your right hand to brush (reverse if you are left-handed).
2)     You can try getting a spin brush with a character; kids like toys and new things! Also, the vibration feels good on their teeth
3)     Give your child the toothbrush and let them try to brush by themselves. Then you take a turn brushing their teeth.
4)     Play Dentist! - Have your child brush your teeth with your toothbrush and then you can brush their teeth with their toothbrush.
5)     You can have your child watch their siblings, if they are older, brush their teeth or they can even watch you brush as part of a morning routine. Kids are copycats and always want to do what their siblings are doing!
6)      Play a game! – Use a homemade or buy a chart of when you child brushes with sticker designations; after 3-5 (however many you want to designate) days of continuous brushing they receive a prize. 
7)     Read to them about brushing! There are some excellent books about brushing and going to the dentist!
a.       Emma and the Tooth Fairy
b.      Dora’s Show Me Your Smile!
c.       Does a Tiger Open Wide?
d.      Going to the Dentist
e.       My Dentist, My Friend
f.        SpongeBob’s I feel Good!
8)     YouTube! One of the best sources! Show them videos of other kids brushing or even their favorite characters brushing (Many Elmo and Sesame Street Character Videos available on YouTube)
9)     Sing a Song! Make up your own!
Any way you chose to help your child to brush, just make sure they are brushing properly! Learning to brush properly at an early age will help to prevent a lifetime of dental disease. 
Dr. Leona Kotlyar, D.D.S.
5th Avenue Dental Associates
7815 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
Tel: (347) 356-6863