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Teaching Your Kids How to Brush Their Teeth

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shutterstock_28933948Statistics show that close to 50% of young children have some form of tooth decay or cavity by the time they start out at kindergarten. With figures such as these, teaching a child to brush their teeth properly is one of the most important life skills they can develop to prevent dental infection and disease from developing in the adult years.

By the time a child turns the age of three years old, they will have grown approximately 20 baby teeth (otherwise known as primary teeth). While many parents believe good dental hygiene begins when the adult teeth (secondary teeth) begin to appear, dentists will tell you this is actually not the case.

Dental hygiene should start before any teeth appear – infants should have their gums wiped clean with water and a soft cloth. This should happen after every feed. A soft toothbrush can also be used, remembering the basic rule: no teeth = no toothpaste. It is actually recommended that infants see a dentist at the age of one, regardless of whether they have any teeth: this can help determine any dental issues that may already be present.

As soon as teeth begin to pop through, use a toothbrush to lightly brush the new tooth. Toothpaste is still unnecessary until around the age of two, or until the child can confidently rinse and spit. When it is time to introduce toothpaste to the child, make sure you purchase an age appropriate one as they all contain different amounts of fluoride. And you should always use a minimum amount – a glob about the size of a pea should be more than enough to begin with.

Children learn by example. If they see their parents brushing regularly, creating a good brushing routine is much easier. Making teeth-time a family affair can also be used as bonding time, and allows children to believe they are doing a ‘big person’ job.

Tips for helping children learn to correctly brush their teeth:

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  • Always help the child with brushing to begin with. It is important that they have a go at brushing by themselves, but always do a final brush to make sure all the food has been removed.
  • Explain every step of the process as you are showing the child. This helps them to understand why and how things are done.
  • Children should be supervised with their brushing until around six years old, or until you feel confident with their brushing skills. Make sure they are competent with cleaning the inside and outside of the gums and teeth.
  • Use a timer or invent a song at brushing time to ensure the child is brushing for a long enough time period.
  • Let them practice on you so that their hand movements can be easily guided and adjusted. Although children tend to just brush from side to side, a fluid round-and-round motion is the ultimate goal. Sit the child in your lap for the first few times for easier access
  • Allow the child to practice on their favourite teddy, stuffed animal or doll. This will help them master the correct brushing technique confidently and much more easily.

Good dental habits begin with the parents, so make sure you begin your child’s dental hygiene as young as possible.

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