Dental Health: Tooth Brushing for Pre-Schoolers!
Teaching toddlers some brushing basics is important. Developing good brushing habits for sound dental health early sets a positive pattern.
How Early Should I Begin Letting My Child Brush Their Teeth by Themselves?
Children learn by example and often want to copy the behaviors they observe in adults. "Let me do it!" is often a favorite phrase during the preschool period, so this can work in your favor when they're ready to learn.
When children are about three years old, they're usually ready to learn how to brush with your supervision. Schedule a visit with the dentist. Let them advise you about your child's readiness for proper brushing. The pediatric dentist or dental hygienist will also show your child the right way to brush.
Between the ages of three and five, your child will likely need help brushing the inner surfaces and way in the back. By age seven, most kids are ready to brush alone.
What Are Some Ideas for Teaching Good Brushing Habits?
- Take your child toothbrush shopping. Let them choose among all the colors and designs for child-size toothbrushes. Giving kids a chance to select the one they want helps them feel part of the process. Just make sure it has soft bristles.
- Show your child how to brush properly. Place only a pea-sized amount (at most) of toothpaste on their toothbrush. Tell them this is all that's needed and no more should be used (too much toothpaste at a young age is not recommended). If your child objects to using toothpaste, just brushing alone is fine. Brushing with water works, too (but the fluoride in fluoride toothpaste acts as a cavity-fighter and provides extra protection).
- Provide positive reinforcement. Give them colorful stickers. Make up a chart and have them place a sticker on it every time they brush.
- Put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror with a smiley face reminding your child to brush. When your child is old enough to read, post the 10 Tips from the Tooth Fairy on the mirror or refrigerator for gentle dental reminders.
- Praise them for their brushing ability. Tell them how shiny their teeth look.
- Making brushing fun to learn sets the right tone! Make up a song using their name while they're brushing. Avoid any battles about brushing, since this will only discourage cooperation. Associating it with fun and enjoyment reinforces positive experiences.
- Model good oral care habits. If they see you brush and floss regularly, that sets a good example they will likely want to follow.
Good oral care habits last a lifetime. Starting them early with good baby teeth care strengthens the habit and will help them keep their permanent teeth healthy, too!
by Brian J. Gray, DDS, MAGD, FICO
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