A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Good Brushing Habits to Your Kids

teaching kids about good dental care habits

Brushing your teeth is very important for your oral & overall health, but to kids, it’s just a chore. But it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips for teaching your kids how to brush their teeth effectively & solidify good dental care habits for a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Step 1. Demonstrate.

To encourage your kids to brush their teeth properly, model good behavior! Brush your teeth at the same time as your child & let them watch you so they can see how it should be done. Explain what you’re doing as you’re doing it & brush in small circles on all surfaces of every tooth. Make sure you show how to angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees to brush the gum line effectively.

Step 2. Guide.

Kids usually don’t have good enough motor control to brush their own teeth well until they are 6 or 7, so until then, you can brush their teeth for them.

Show them how to squeeze a pea-sized amount of toothpaste onto the toothbrush (the ADA recommends using a rice grain-sized amount until your child is three years old) & have your child face the mirror so they can see & you can explain what you are doing. Go slow & show them proper brushing technique.

Once they are old enough to brush their teeth on their own, continue to brush your teeth at the same time as your child to encourage good dental care. If you’re nervous that they aren’t being thorough, trade off for a while. Your child can brush their own teeth in the morning, & then in the evening you can reinforce proper brushing technique by doing it for them.

Step 3. Encourage Them to Be Thorough.

Make sure your child is thorough & continues to brush for the entire two minutes. You can use songs or a timer to countdown, & tell them to make lots of bubbles with the toothpaste.

When the two minutes is up, instruct them to spit the toothpaste into the sink & never swallow it. Then, they should rinse their mouth & the toothbrush. To show them how thorough they need to be, you can use plaque dye tablets after brushing to show them the spots they missed.

Step 4. Floss!

Flossing is a very important part of the dental care routine that you should encourage your child to follow from an early age. To make it more fun & easy, you can use floss picks, because they often come in styles with characters.

As with brushing their teeth, teach your child the proper flossing technique. Wind 18 inches of floss around your middle fingers & pinch the floss between your thumb & index fingers. Gently insert the floss between two teeth using a back & forth motion. Curve the floss around each tooth in a C shape & move it up & down each tooth. You can demonstrate it, guide your child, & eventually let them try it themselves.

Tips & Tricks

40% of kids have cavities by the time they enter kindergarten, so it’s important to encourage good brushing habits early. Even though baby teeth will fall out eventually, it’s important to keep them clean & healthy anyway because they are guides & space holders for permanent teeth.

Here are some tips & tricks for making brushing fun!

  • Practice on a model. You can use dolls, an upside-down egg carton, or an old toothbrush & paint & paper.
  • Let your child choose their toothbrush & toothpaste! Get them involved in their health. You can also try an electric toothbrush, because those are fun for kids.
  • Tell them a story about the sugar bugs that make holes in our teeth if we don’t brush them away.
  • The circular movement of the toothbrush is kind of like the wheels on a train! Encourage them to move the train across their teeth.
  • Tell them to pretend the brush is a superhero who is rescuing each tooth from plaque monsters.

See the Dentist More Often & You’ll Save Money!

an ounce of preventive dentistryWhat if we told you the more often you see your dentist, the less you’ll spend on dentistry? We know it sounds like a contradiction, but that is the power of preventive dentistry.

We recommend that you visit us at least twice a year for a teeth cleaning appointment, which also includes a basic exam. You’ll hear dental professionals refer to this kind of appointment as prophylaxis (prophy for short), which is a word that comes from a Greek term that means “guard”. The services we perform during your teeth cleaning & checkup are intended to guard against the spread & development of disease, particularly tooth decay & gum disease.

Think of your preventive dental care in terms of this metaphor: you’re at home & a bad rain storm is coming. What would you rather respond to, a weather report telling you that there is a flood warning, or three feet of water in your living room? Wouldn’t you want the early warning so you have time to place sandbags to keep the water out?

As a dental patient, which would you rather have, a dental hygienist gently removing plaque & tartar from your teeth, or the dentist telling you that your tooth is too far gone to be saved & has to be removed?

We say this not to scare you & not as a threat, but because we want you to think of preventive dentistry as an early warning system for your mouth. We’d rather let you know about the risks to your health & help you take preventive measures than be on the phone with the insurance company telling them about the damage.

A few dozens sandbags are a lot cheaper than replacing your belongings & repairing damage to your house. Preventive dentistry, like teeth cleanings, is much cheaper than restorative repair to fix decay, such as fillings, crowns, & bridges or gum disease treatments. If you have dental insurance, most of your annual preventive dental care is covered & won’t cost you any extra money. That’s like if your homeowner’s insurance offered you a load of sandbags for free twice a year, just in case there was a flood. If you knew there was a risk of flooding, why would your refuse the offer?

So if you want to avoid costly restorative dentistry or gum disease treatments in the future, be sure to come see us every six months for your preventive care & cleaning appointment. An hour of your time twice a year is well worth trying to repair the damage after a catastrophe!

Understanding Tooth Sensitivity

woman with tooth sensitivityMany millions of people suffer from tooth sensitivity at some point in their life, usually in the form of tooth pain in reaction to heat or cold. Tooth sensitivity has many causes, some more easily fixed than others. However, it’s important to know that tooth sensitivity is sometimes a sign of a more serious dental problem of condition. What follows are the basics of what you should know about having sensitive teeth.

First, we need to have an understanding of how teeth are constructed. The hard, shiny outer layer of your teeth is called enamel. This layer protects the softer, porous layer below, which is called dentin. On the part of your tooth that is rooted in your gums, the dentin is protected by a thin, hard layer called cementum. Inside the center of your tooth is the root canal, which contains a substance called the pulp, made up of nerves & blood vessels.

Tooth pain or sensitivity occurs when dentin is somehow exposed & heat or cold is able to penetrate through it & irritate your tooth’s nerve. Wearing away of enamel & cementum, along with receding gums, can cause dentin to become exposed.

You can wear away enamel a few ways:

  • Bacteria build-up from poor oral hygiene can cause enamel erosion & decay.
  • Brushing too hard or with a toothbrush with hard bristles.
  • Eating or drinking highly acidic foods such as soft drinks or energy drinks.
  • Grinding your teeth while you sleep.

In addition to erosion, tooth sensitivity can also be caused by a crack or a cavity in your tooth that you may not have realized is there yet. If you have persistent, intense sensitivity that doesn’t go away for a few days, come see as soon as you can so we can look for decay or damage.

The same goes for old fillings that may have become loose or developed tooth decay around them. Fluids can get under & around the filling & irritate the nerve through the dentin. If you find that a tooth with a filling has become extra sensitive, you should also come to the dental clinic immediately so we can see if the filling needs to be replaced.

Some people also experience tooth sensitivity after dental procedures, particularly professional teeth whitening or bleaching. People with hypersensitive teeth can also be irritated by the chemicals in some tooth whitening toothpastes.

Tooth sensitivity is also a notable symptom of gum disease. When you have gum disease, your gums can start to pull away or recede from your teeth, leaving the dentin exposed.

Often the best treatment for tooth sensitivity is a change in your habits & oral care routine. If you brush too hard or use a hard bristle toothbrush, switch to a soft bristle brush & try to brush less aggressively. If you’re irritated by a whitening toothpaste, try switching to an anti-sensitivity toothpaste that also contains fluoride, which helps remineralized & strengthen tooth enamel. With these changes, your tooth sensitivity will decrease & likely disappear over time.

If you still experience a level of sensitivity that bothers you, please talk to us. We may be able to offer you treatments, such as a topical anti-sensitivity paste, that can help.