Brushing teeth with a preschooler

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I can do it myself!

If you’re the parent of a preschooler, you likely hear this phrase often. From tying their shoes to grabbing a toy that’s just out of reach, preschoolers love to do things on their own. But at this age, children cannot brush their teeth properly by themselves – no matter how badly they want to. Your preschooler will need supervision and encouragement to develop this new skill over time.

Keep reading to learn more about brushing teeth with a preschooler, how to get your child to brush their teeth properly, and how Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry helps protect your preschooler’s growing smile.

Tooth development in young children

Your preschooler’s mouth has been hard at work – all 20 baby teeth usually arrive by their third birthday. Baby teeth guide your child’s permanent adult teeth into position, so it’s important to take care of them from the start.

Hopefully, you already began a “brushing” routine when your child’s first baby tooth appeared. When infants become toddlers, they graduate from a soft, damp washcloth with a tiny dab of fluoride toothpaste (no bigger than a grain of rice) to a pea-sized dab on a soft children’s toothbrush.

When brushing their teeth is part of your child’s daily routine from the beginning, it not only prevents tooth decay – the number-one dental issue for children of all ages – but helps form healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

The best way to brush your child’s teeth

You should always brush your child’s teeth twice a day (morning and night). Here’s an easy and effective routine you can follow.

Step 1 – Get in position

If your bathroom space allows, brush your child’s teeth in front of a mirror so you can both see their mouth more closely. Stand or sit behind them to help them feel more secure, then cup your child’s chin in your hands to let their head rest against your body.

Step 2 – Begin brushing

Angle the bristles of the toothbrush towards your child’s gum, moving it in gentle circles across their teeth. Thoroughly brush the front and back of each tooth, as well as the chewing surface. Finally, gently brush your child’s tongue.

Step 3 – Spit it out

As soon as you’re done, remind your child to spit out any remaining toothpaste instead of swallowing it. Swallowing too much fluoride toothpaste can upset their stomach.

Step 4 – End with a smile

Lots of preschoolers enjoy inspecting their clean smiles in the mirror afterward. Words of praise and encouragement are always helpful!

A teaching opportunity

From age three on, you can help your child develop their tooth-brushing skills by letting them take a turn before you. Once they know the routine, have them brush their teeth first. Do a follow-up brushing each time to make sure that all their teeth are properly cleaned.

Most kids are able to brush their teeth on their own between the ages of six and eight, although some take longer. Your Southmoor Pediatric Dentist can explain and demonstrate proper brushing techniques, so they’ll be ready when the time comes.

Selecting the right supplies

You’ve probably bought school supplies before. Well, these supplies are for your preschooler’s healthy smile!

Your child will need:

  • A toothbrush – Choose a toothbrush designed specifically for children ages 2-5, which should have soft bristles, a small oval head, and a non-slip handle. Let your preschooler pick a toothbrush with a colorful design or their favorite cartoon character to make brushing even better.
  • Toothpaste – If your child doesn’t like the taste of toothpaste, you can start with a low-fluoride toothpaste to get them used to the flavor. Fluoride is key! Many fluoridated toothpastes for kids come in fruity or yummy flavors, like bubble gum, for extra appeal.
  • Other products – You may want to start using dental floss or other products, so your child learns how to clean between their teeth from a young age. Ask your Southmoor Pediatric Dentist for advice.

Encouraging your preschooler to brush their teeth

Like toddlers, some preschoolers just don’t want to cooperate when it’s time to brush. Here are some tips you can use to get your child more excited about brushing their teeth:

Have fun! Sing a silly song, watch a tooth-brushing video, make goofy noises, or anything else that makes the time more enjoyable.
Put up a brushing calendar in your child’s room. They can fill it with stickers each time they brush to earn a special reward.
Use two toothbrushes at once – one for you and one for your child. Take turns brushing your child’s teeth together.

From an oral health standpoint, remind your preschooler that brushing their teeth helps them avoid bad breath (yes, even preschoolers get it!), tooth decay, cavities, and other dental problems.

Bring your preschooler to the dentist regularly

At this age, children should visit the dentist every six months. Regular dental check-ups give your child a chance to get to know their Southmoor Pediatric Dentist – and it gives us a chance to get to know you, too. As your child grows, we’ll work together to meet all their oral health needs. In the meantime, here are some dental hygiene tips and tricks for kids.

Schedule an appointment today

Your preschooler’s smile is changing every day, and Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry wants to make it the healthiest smile it can be. From the moment you walk into our office, you and your child will be treated like family. Our compassionate staff is well-trained in handling any preschooler tears or fears, and your child will get the expert dental care they deserve.

To schedule an appointment, contact us today.