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Establishing an oral hygiene routine with your child is an important part of their development. Although there may be some bumps along the road towards them feeling enthusiastic about the process, turning them on to the joys of a healthy and bright smile is definitely one of the things they’ll thank you for later. The pictures of them and the family dog dressed up in matching Halloween costumes? We can’t vouch for those as strongly, but hey, time will tell. Until then, here’s a look at what to keep in mind when brushing your child’s teeth.
So you’ve got yourself a brand new baby. Congrats! Oral care for your newborn should actually start right off the bat – although they may not have teeth yet, taking care of their gums is still important (and continues to be at any age!) So introduce them to healthy habits by carefully wiping down their gums twice a day with a moist piece of gauze or washcloth. It’s best to schedule these sessions for after feedings and before they go bed, as the wiping process is designed to remove bacteria from their mouths. Keeping your baby’s gums clean helps to ensure a hygienic environment for their baby teeth when they start to grow in. Massaging your baby’s gums with a benzocaine-free teething gel might also be helpful when teething begins.
So when should you start actually brushing their teeth? The simple answer is that you should start to brush their teeth when they start to have teeth – so once their teeny little pearls begin to grow in, it’s time to get them introduced to regular brushing maintenance. For their comfort and your ease, be sure to use a soft bristle brush that has a small head – in fact, there are infant brushes that have been designed for just this purpose. Similarly, think small when it comes to toothpaste – a dollop the size of a grain of rice is appropriate. And until they’re capable of learning how to spit, stick with a fluoride free toothpaste as it’s safer if swallowed. When it comes to flossing, wait until your baby’s teeth touch – then you can begin gently flossing in between them.
The onset of toddlerhood brings with it a whole new set of joys and challenges, and at this point you’ll *start* to pass off some of the responsibilities involved with brushing. Around 2 years of age, you can begin teaching your child how to spit while brushing. Once they’ve mastered spitting, it’s ok to switch to a fluoride toothpaste with supervision. And by the age of 3, you can gradually increase the amount of toothpaste on their brush to a pea-sized portion.
When choosing a toothpaste for your toddler, aim for a flavor that they like as it may help make the process smoother for all involved. Here at hello, we make a whole line of naturally friendly kids toothpastes that generally receive rave reviews from the juvenile demographic. Kids toothpastes are fine and effective for adults to use too, so don’t feel bashful if you start sneaking some of their stash. If they have tooth discoloration issues, it’s ok to use whitening pastes that contain non-chemical whiteners. And if your budding, willful youngster isn’t a huge fan of the whole brushing experience, we’ve assembled some tips on how to get them more excited about the process.
It’s a good idea to slowly give your child more agency in the brushing process. Eventually, you’ll be able to let them fly on their own, and what a proud parent you’ll be! But until they’re 6 years old, you should always supervise while they’re brushing in order to ensure that they’re not swallowing paste or doing a lackluster job.
In the event that they do accidentally swallow some paste, it’s important that you keep cool but also are well-informed. While swallowing paste should absolutely be avoided, ingesting the amount used during a normal toothbrushing session is not a serious toxicity issue. However, if your child has swallowed more than a pea-sized amount they may experience upset stomach and in rare cases, swallowing an excessive amount of fluoride toothpaste can lead to more serious problems. So if you believe your child has swallowed a significant amount of paste, it’s best to call poison control to get advice. And as we’ve mentioned, the best policy of all is to supervise them while brushing to ensure safety and reinforce proper technique. With your expert guidance and support, you’ll both have a lifetime of happy smiles to look forward to!
about the author
Lawrence Fung is a dentist, entrepreneur, and one of our expert contributors here on the hello blog. After earning his DDS at the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry, Lawrence served as a General Dentist in the US Navy for four years. Since then, he’s mixed his dental credentials with his love for startups by founding SiliconBeach.Dental, a new breed of dental clinic in LA that leverages tech to make high-quality care more accessible and friendlier than ever before. When he’s not challenging the dental status quo, Lawrence reps his beloved Trojans, crushes hotdog-eating contests, and loves yodeling.
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