Tooth Brushing

Brushing & Flossing Instructions

Children’s hands and mouths are different than adults. They need to use toothbrushes designed for children. Both adults and children should use brushes with soft, rounded bristles for gentle cleaning. Change to a new brush about every three months.

Wipe infant’s teeth gently with a moist, soft cloth or gauze square. As babies grow, use a child’s toothbrush with a small, pea-sized dab of toothpaste. By age two or three begin to teach your child to brush. You will still need to brush where they miss. Dentists and hygienists often advise children to use a gentle, short, back and forth motion to remove plaque. When children are older, they can switch to this method.

Hold the brush at a 45 degrees angle towards teeth and gums. Move brush back and forth with short strokes, about a half tooth wide.

  • Brush the inside and outside surfaces of each tooth, top and bottom.
  • Hold the brush flat on top of the teeth and brush the chewing surfaces.
  • Gently brush the tongue to remove debris.
  • Floss between teeth daily.

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When To Begin Brushing 

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), caretakers of infants should use a very small amount of fluoride toothpaste to lightly brush baby teeth as soon as they appear. The ADA suggests that an amount even smaller than the typical “pea sized” standard is used, often referring to the new size as a “smear.”  A smear only lightly covers the upper-most bristles of the brush, and does not deposit in a clump or globule.  Once children have aged to 3-6 years old and can spit out the toothpaste, this amount may be increased to the standard pea-size.

Side-by-side photos of a rice-sized amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush with single rice grain and green pea for reference

For most toddlers, getting them to brush their teeth can be quite a challenge. Some suggestions for making tooth brushing less of a battle can include:

  • Let your child brush your teeth at the same time.
  • Let your child pick out a few toothbrushes with his favorite characters and giving him a choice of which one he wants to use each time (this will give him some feeling of control over the situation).
  • Let your child brush his own teeth first (you will likely have to “help out”).
  • Let your child some children’s books about tooth brushing.
  • Have everyone brush their teeth at the same time.

To help your child understand the importance of brushing, it can be sometimes fun and helpful to let them eat or drink something that will “stain” their teeth temporarily and then brush them clean.

It can also be a good idea to create a “tooth brushing routine”. And stick to the same routine each day.