For children up to the age of two, it is mainly about getting them used to having a toothbrush in their mouth. You should start tooth brushing regularly as soon as your child’s first tooth appears. Just before the tooth breaks through, the gums can itch and your child may like having something to bite on, for example a toothbrush.
Brush your child’s teeth twice a day. In the morning, preferably after breakfast, and before they go to bed in the evening.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Use a toothbrush that has a small head with soft bristles. Choose a toothpaste that has a mild flavour. There are toothpastes available that are unflavoured and which do not foam. Ask your dentist for advice.
When your child gets their first teeth, a dab of toothpaste no bigger than your child’s little finger nail is sufficient.
It is important that your chosen toothpaste contains fluoride, which helps to strengthen teeth. Brushing morning and evening with a fluoride toothpaste protects your child’s teeth against cavities. Fluoride toothpastes are available in different concentrations for different ages. Researchers all over the world agree that fluoride is important in strengthening teeth and keeping them healthy.
Lay young children down
You can brush the teeth of young children when they are lying down. A changing table is ideal. Your child can also lie on the bed, preferably with their head on your lap. This position, with the head on the lap, makes it easy to see into your child’s mouth and to get to the back teeth. It is also more restful for your child.
Most children will automatically open their mouth if you carefully insert one finger into their mouth along the inside of their cheek.
Find a comfortable position
From the age of four to five years, children can stand up when having their teeth brushed. You should sit down and get your child to lean their head gently back against your shoulder and arm. It may sometimes be easier to have your child seated on your lap.
You will be able to see more easily into their mouth if you insert one or two fingers along the inside of their cheek and gently pull the corner of their mouth out.
It is a good idea for children to start practising brushing their teeth early on, but they will need help from an adult until they are 10–12 years old or perhaps a little older. When children are about six years old, new teeth appear that are sensitive and require additional care and attention.
Brush using small movements
Brush the whole tooth right down to the gum line. Move the brush back and forth sideways along the teeth, working tooth by tooth and using very small and gentle movements. You can try holding the brush like a pencil so as to avoid applying too much pressure. Brush the front of the teeth, the back and the chewing surfaces.
When you brush the back of the upper and lower front teeth, hold the handle straight out. Make sure that the brush reaches the gums. Do not press too hard with the brush and always use small movements.
Let children work the foam between their teeth
From the age of six years, it is a good idea to finish brushing by letting your child work the toothpaste foam between their teeth, with the help of some water, before spitting it out. Children should preferably not rinse their mouth with water afterwards.
You can use an electric toothbrush for children aged three years or older. An electric toothbrush removes more deposits than a normal toothbrush, but you need to use a different brushing technique from the usual one. It may help to take your electric toothbrush to the dentist or dental hygienist, who can show you how best to use it.
Children need help in brushing with an electric toothbrush up to the age of 10–12 years. Some children may find it easier to brush using an electric toothbrush with a small head.
However, a small toothbrush head may not hold enough toothpaste. If this is the case, apply one centimetre of toothpaste and brush the upper teeth and then apply another centimetre before brushing the lower teeth.
It is not always easy to brush your child’s teeth
It is important that you try to brush your child’s teeth regularly. This can be more difficult to do sometimes, in which case you can instead massage toothpaste on to the teeth. An alternative may be to let your child brush their teeth first and then you take over.
It is often a case of your child testing their will. Being patient in these situations will help to make tooth brushing part of a daily routine even if your child protests.