Brushing 101: Kids -By Dr Navneet Kaur

One of the most common questions I come across during pregnancy or after childbirth is the right time to start brushing my child?
It is very confusing for new and even old parents as what they have in their mind is there is no need of brushing such a small child or some fear that they will harm the child while brushing so they avoid it till the baby is old enough according to them. It just means that they were not exposed to the counselling before the child-birth by their doctor about oral hygiene of their child.
It would be very interesting to know that since development of civilization cultures like Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Arabs, and Romans etc. practiced various methods to keep their oral cavity healthy, which suggests that even without any modern equipment and research they were aware of its importance and hence used materials like leaves and twigs to clean their teeth.

Technique advised by American Dental Association can be seen here.

Know interesting facts and important information for general and oral health of children in this informative video – 

When is the best time to start oral HYGIENE care?

Oral hygiene maintenance should begin right after the first feeding of the child and should ideally be done after every meal. This initial cleaning is to be done until teeth start erupting, at that time use of a tooth-brush should be started by the caregiver.

what is the best way to take care for their oral hygiene?

Oral hygiene is maintained using a damp/moistened clean cloth or preferably sterile gauze. After every meal wet gauze should be taken and gum pads should be cleaned delicately using it, removing any food debris.

I know what you are thinking!! Why so early?

Parents wonder that why such a small baby would need such frequent cleaning.
Such strict maintenance is necessary to minimize any potential pathology development/gum diseases in the mouth of child. Parents should always remember “A clean mouth is a healthy mouth”.

what is Teething?

Teething means coming out of the teeth from the jaw into the mouth. Normally first teeth appear in mouth around 6 months of age.
This period should be taken care of properly because the baby becomes irritated during this period and often shows loss of appetite.

Brush Selection for kids!

A soft bristle brush should always be used to prevent damage to any hard/soft tissues and should be small in size as per size of the oral cavity. A toothbrush should be changed after every 3 months or when bristles show wearing off sign, whichever earlier. Toothbrush should always be ADA – Accepted to ensure proper quality.

What all should be checked before selecting Toothpaste?

Proper toothpaste should be selected according to the age of child. Up to 2 years of age, the toothpaste should be non-fluoridated (Without fluoride). After 2 years of age fluoridated toothpaste should be used. At any given age the toothpaste used should be always ADA-Accepted and only pea sized amount should be dispensed on the toothbrush and it should be used by caregiver to clean the teeth of child.

More information about fluoridation from ADA can be accessed from here.

Brushing Technique!!

Baby’s teeth should be brushed by caregiver until baby can hold toothbrush properly in hands, proper parental supervision is always necessary until the child has no problem in rinsing and spitting. Tooth brushing done by caregiver should always be gentle and all surfaces of teeth must be cleaned properly.
It should always be made sure that the baby does not ingest the toothpaste at any time, it can cause various systemic problems and chronic ingestion may cause increased fluoride levels in body.
In case you suspect that child is ingesting the toothpaste or there is some problem with the child, a healthcare professional like the pediatric dentist should be consulted.
ADA suggested brushing technique can be seen here.

Brushing for adults can be seen in this video – 

what about Flossing?

Caregiver must floss the child’s teeth every day and should teach the child how it is done to make learning process easier for the child to understand and follow in future.

Flossing recommendation by ADA can be accessed here.

Take home message!

One should never overlook the benefits of good oral hygiene; proper parental counselling should be done before the baby is born and caregiver should start providing good oral hygiene starting from the first meal/feed. Once teeth come into the mouth, toothbrush should be used by the caregiver to clean all surfaces of the teeth. Any material used for providing oral health care should be approved by the American Dental Association. One must always remember “Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you”.

Dr. Navneet Kaur

Currently working as Research Intern in Oral Biology Department  at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, New Jersey.


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