The 6 most important things to remember about brushing your child’s teeth:
- Use a fluoride toothpaste (1000-1500ppm).
- Brush twice daily – at night time before bed, and one other time – ideally first thing in the morning.
- Time brushing for 2 minutes – with older children you should time brushing to ensure a full 2 minutes to help the toothpaste soak in and help make sure they are being thorough with their brushing. With younger children its okay to take what you can get.
- Aim to brush in the 1) insides, 2) outsides and 3) biting surfaces of both the upper and lower teeth.
- Spit, don’t rinse after brushing, so some toothpaste stays behind and gets longer to soak into the teeth, helping to protect against tooth decay.
- Children should be supervised when brushing, at least until the age of 7.
How much toothpaste to use
- Children aged under 3 should use only a smear of fluoride toothpaste.
- Children aged 3-6 should use a petit pois size amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Children 6 and over (and adults) should use a garden pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste.
Should children use adult toothpaste?
Often children describe minty adult toothpastes as having a spicy flavour because they are very minty. Children’s toothpastes usually have milder flavours that are easier for these children to tolerate, but the level of fluoride may be less in some children’s toothpaste. You should use a toothpaste your child will tolerate – with the correct level of fluoride for your water supply – see below.
What strength fluoride toothpaste should children use?
All children should use a fluoride toothpaste of 1000-1500ppm to help protect them against tooth decay. The level of fluoride recommended for your child depends on whether there is fluoride in your water supply.
Areas with fluoridated water supply
If you live in an area with fluoride in the water supply, your child should use a toothpaste with 1000ppm of fluoride. This can be a children’s toothpaste or family toothpaste as long as it is 1000ppm of fluoride.
Areas without fluoridated water supply
If you live in an area without fluoride in the water supply, your child should use an adult strength toothpaste with 1400-1500ppm of fluoride (usually 1450ppm). This can be a children’s toothpaste (usually the older age ranges) or ordinary adult/family toothpaste as long as it is 1400-1500ppm of fluoride.
You could also consider using your power to help change UK dentistry by writing to your MP and asking why we don’t currently have all of our water supply fluoridated, when water fluoridation is a proven effective, cheap and safe way to reduce dental decay for everyone. We have some more dental themed suggestions for what else you could ask.
What type of toothbrush should my child use?
Choose an age appropriate toothbrush so the head easily fits in your child’s mouth.
If an electric toothbrush makes your child more eager to brush then its fine to use a model aimed specifically for children or you can just swap the head to a children’s head on an adult electric toothbrush handle.
How to improve children’s toothbrushing
- Time brushing for 2 minutes – not only will this give the fluoride in toothpaste time to strengthen your child’s teeth, it will also encourage thorough brushing
- Supervise brushing to ensure a full two minutes and to encourage and guide their brushing technique
- Guide your child’s brushing by encouraging brushing on the outside, inside and biting surfaces, for both the upper and lower teeth
- Try using disclosing tablets
- Use a brushing chart to reward good brushing
How to time brushing
2 minutes is longer than you think, and it can be hard to keep children’s focus. Its good to help your child time her or his brushing using:
- The stopwatch function on your phone
- Play a song that lasts for at least 2 minutes
- An electric toothbrush with a built in timer
- A brushing app like the Oral B Disney Magic Timer App or Brush DJ App
- A musical timer
- An egg timer
What does supervised brushing mean?
All children should be supervised when brushing their teeth at least up until the age of 7. This means an adult should brush a younger children’s teeth for them, but encourage them to have a go themselves. As children get older and better at brushing themselves, the adult won’t need to help as much until the adult is just watching to make sure they are brushing well, for long enough, and spitting out but not rising.
How to use disclosing tablets
Disclosing tablets help to show the places missed after brushing by staining dental plaque bright pink. They should be chewed up (but not swallowed) and rinsed out. The pink staining can be easily brushed away.
Some brands of disclosing tablet will stain older plaque (that’s been there longer than a day or two) a purple or blue colour.
Should children use a mouthwash?
Children don’t need to use a mouthwash. Its important to understand that using mouthwash is not a substitute for brushing with fluoride toothpaste.
Some mouthwashes can be harmful if swallowed so its important that you only allow your child to use a mouthwash if you are confident they can be trusted to spit out.
Do children need to floss?
No, children should concentrate on brushing. Their dentist will introduce flossing to them when required – usually as a teenager.
When should children start visiting the dentist?
Children should be taken to the dentist soon after their first teeth erupt – usually around 6 months old.
How often should children have a checkup at the dentist?
Children should be taken for a checkup with a dentist at least every 6 months. For higher risk children, their dentist may wish for them to be brought every 3 months.