Brushing and Toothpaste for Children
Even before your child's teeth have come in, it's important to start mouth care. Using
a damp washcloth or piece of gauze, gently rub it over your infant's gums to help
clean the mouth. Brushing your child's teeth should begin when the first tooth appears.
Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, on a
soft-bristled toothbrush. When your child is about 3 years old, you can use a pea-sized
amount of toothpaste. Your child will need help brushing their teeth until about age
7 or 8.
The importance of brushing
The single best way to remove harmful plaque from teeth and gums is to brush teeth
regularly and correctly. At least twice a day is advised. Plaque is a thin, sticky
film loaded with bacteria.
What is the correct method for teeth brushing?
Every mouth is different, and there is more than one effective way to brush. Deciding
which way is best for your child depends largely on their teeth positions and gum
condition. Talk with your child's pediatric dentist or primary care provider to decide which
brushing method is best for your child's mouth.
Generally, most healthcare providers advise a circular method for brushing. This includes
brushing only a small group of teeth at a time, slowly covering the entire mouth. A
circular or elliptical motion is important, as using a back-and-forth motion may cause:
Instead, healthcare providers advise the following method:
Step 1. Place the toothbrush beside the teeth at a 45-degree angle.
Step 2. Gently brush only a small group of teeth at a time (in a circular or elliptical motion)
until the entire mouth is covered.
Step 3. Brush the outside of the teeth, inside of the teeth, and the chewing surfaces.
Step 4. Gently brush the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.
Step 5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 at least twice daily, especially after meals and snacks.
What type of toothbrush should be used?
A toothbrush head should be small, about 1 inch by 1/2 inch. The brush should have
a handle suitable for firm grasping. The bristles of the brush should be soft, nylon,
and rounded at the ends. This helps ensure that the brush bristles are gentle to the
gums and tooth surfaces. Soft, polished bristles let you reach into the crevice between
the teeth and gums to remove plaque without damaging the gums. Some brushes are too
abrasive and can wear down the tooth enamel. So in most cases, medium and hard bristles
are not advised. Only gentle pressure is needed when brushing to remove the plaque.
Too much pressure can cause the gums to recede and can wear away the tooth surface.
How often should you brush?
Generally, brushing is advised twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time. People
often think they are brushing long enough. But in fact, most people spend less than
1 minute brushing. In addition, it is generally better to brush 2 minutes twice a
day instead of brushing quickly 5 or more times during the day.
It's important to brush teeth during the day while at school or play. Keeping a toothbrush
handy, in a desk or backpack, increases the chance that your child will brush during
the day. Make brushing before bedtime and in the morning a routine part of your child's
What is toothpaste?
Toothpaste is made up of the following cleaning ingredients:
Humectant (helps control moisture) and water (75%)
Foaming and flavoring agents (2%)
pH buffers (2%)
Coloring agents, binders, and opacifiers (1.5%)
Fluoride (.24 %)
Facts about toothpaste
Brushing with toothpaste (particularly toothpaste with fluoride) helps to:
Talk with your child's dentist or primary care provider about when is the best time for
your toddler to begin using toothpaste.
Which type of toothpaste is best?
Fluoride is the most crucial ingredient in toothpaste. As long as the toothpaste contains
fluoride, the brand or type (paste, gel, or powder) generally does not matter. All
fluoride toothpastes work effectively to fight plaque and cavities, and to clean and
polish tooth enamel. The brand you choose should have the American Dental Association
(ADA) seal of approval on the container. This means that clinical trials have shown
adequate evidence the product is safe and effective.
Some toothpastes offer tartar control pyrophosphates to prevent the build-up of hard
calculus deposits on teeth. Others offer whitening formulas to safely remove stains,
making teeth brighter and shinier. But fluoride is the true active ingredient that
works the hardest to protect your child's teeth.