ORAL HEALTH FOR TODDLERS: Ways to care for your child’s teeth. PART 2
How much toothpaste should I use?
Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorosis (a defect of enamel during tooth development). Because children may swallow some of the toothpaste they brush with, it is important that the quantity of toothpaste used is monitored.
- Below the age of three years, children should use just a smear of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice).
- Children aged between three and six years should use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste.
How often should we brush and how long?
Brush your child’s teeth for about TWO minutes TWICE a day: once just before bedtime and at least one other time during the day. Preferably after breakfast! This I know sounds strange because we’ve been raised all our lives to brush before eating in the mornings but if you brush your teeth before going to bed at night, then after breakfast is ideal for your next brushing session.
The night time brushing is most important because it helps get rid of all food consumed during the day and also because the cleansing action of saliva is reduced when we sleep so any bacteria left on teeth overnight have plenty of hours to damage the teeth and gums during sleep. Remember nothing to eat or drink except water after brushing the teeth at night.
The easiest way to brush a baby’s teeth is to sit them on your knee with their head resting against your chest.
With an older child, sit or stand behind them and tilt their head upwards cradling their chin in your hand so you can reach their top and bottom teeth more easily. If possible do the brushing in front of a mirror so the child can see what you are doing.
For infants, toddlers and young children brush their teeth in small circles covering all the surfaces and let your child spit the toothpaste out afterwards. Rinsing with water has been found to reduce the benefit of fluoride so no need to rinse.
As children grow older it is likely they want to participate in tooth brushing time but they can’t do it effectively, you can allow them to take a turn before or after you do their brushing.
Supervise tooth brushing until your child is seven or eight years old, either by brushing their teeth yourself or, if they brush their own teeth, by watching how they do it.
From the age of seven or eight they should be able to brush their own teeth, but it’s still a good idea to watch them from time to time to make sure they brush properly.
Once children go into mixed dentition (a period when they have a mixture of both adult teeth and baby teeth in their mouths) the spaces in between teeth become smaller and tooth brushing alone cannot effectively remove the plaque in between teeth so teeth should be flossed once a day as soon as two teeth are touching. If your child has two teeth touching each other then it’s a good idea to floss in between the two teeth.
Dental floss (a cord used to clean in between teeth.) is designed to remove particles from between the teeth without causing damage to the gum.
Please note: Cocktail sticks a.k.a toothpicks are not ideal for picking in between teeth as it can cause trauma to the gums.
- Place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
- Brush each tooth in a gentle, circular motion. Harshly scrubbing back and forth can damage the gums. The circular motion does the best job of both removing the plaque along the gum line and massaging the gums.
- Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Brush systematically by dividing the mouth into 4 quadrants (using the tip of the nose as an imaginary dividing line) upper left, upper right, lower left and lower right quadrants. Brush one quadrant at a time for about 30 seconds covering all surfaces before moving to the next quadrant.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke. For the chewing surface use forward and backward movements.
- Brush the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.
Which toothbrush should my child use?
Choose an age appropriate toothbrush for your child, look at the packaging to see what age range the brush is designed for. Children’s toothbrush should fit comfortably in their mouths and be easy to hold and manipulate. Choose a toothbrush with soft bristles this types of brush heads clean kids’ teeth well without being rough on their gums.
After every use, clean the toothbrush throughly and keep it upright to air dry it. Leaving the toothbrush constantly wet will promote growth of germs. If you have a ventilated toothbrush cover then use it to cover the toothbrush when not in use.
How often should I change my child’s toothbrush?
With repeated use toothbrush bristles wear away and are no longer effective in removing plaque. Toothbrushes are ready to be changed when the bristles fray and no longer stand up straight or after 3 months, whichever comes first. It is also advisable to change your child’s toothbrush after a period of illness to avoid reinfection. Children tend to chew and bite on their toothbrushes and the bristles will degrade much faster than adult toothbrushes.
Toothbrushes that are worn will not clean effectively. Change them.
SOURCE: ASK THE PAEDIATRICIANS FOUNDATION