Your child’s teeth play an important role every day. Teeth help them chew, tear, crush, and grind the foods they eat to grow healthy and strong. Their teeth, along with their lips, and tongue form words to help them speak clearly. Teeth also help children smile and give them confidence.

Tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. (American Dental Association). Dental problems at an early age can affect the health and speech of children. Dental problems can also become painful and require costly treatment.

Parents may not always be aware that their child has tooth pain or cavities. It is difficult for some children to explain or express what is bothering them, such as a toothache. Your child’s dental care is important for their overall health. Teach your children the importance of good, daily tooth brushing habits as they grow, to help them have strong teeth and prevent tooth decay.

National Brush Day is November 1st.

The Healthy Mouths Campaign from the American Dental Association established November 1st as National Brush Day to reinforce the importance of children’s oral health and promote good tooth brushing habits.

Below are answers to questions from parents and caregivers on how to help their children maintain good brushing habits for strong and healthy teeth.

What is the Proper Toothbrush for My Child?

Select a toothbrush that will clean your child’s teeth and encourage them to brush daily.

  • Choose a kid’s toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Has the seal of approval from the American Dental Association (ADA)
  • Will fit in their mouth comfortably, and is easy to hold

Getting a toothbrush with cartoon and superhero characters or a favorite color may help your child get excited about brushing daily. Remember to get a new toothbrush as soon as the bristles look frayed or worn, or after three months. 

Which Toothpaste is Right for My Child?

A non-fluoride toothpaste is recommended for children 1-2 two years old. This type of toothpaste is safe to swallow (AAPD). For children 3-6, choose a child’s toothpaste that contains fluoride and has the seal of approval from the ADA. Fluoride in toothpaste helps to strengthen tooth enamel and fight cavities. Some toothpaste makers make kid-friendly toothpaste with flavors that are also teeth friendly. This may help your child boost his interest in brushing.

How Do I Brush My Child’s Teeth?

Apply a smear or the size of a grain of rice to bristles for children less than 3 years old and a pea-size amount for older children. Hold the toothbrush and angle the bristles toward the teeth and gums. Gently move the brush in small circles to clean the inner and outer sides of the teeth and gums. Make sure to reach the back molars, as this is an area prone to cavities. Brush the top surface of the teeth with short, gentle back-and-forth strokes. Make sure you brush for two (2) minutes, two (2) times a day. It is best to brush after breakfast and before going to bed.

Tooth Brushing Tips.

  • Provide your child with a special cup to rinse
  • Have a small towel handy for children who dribble when they rinse
  • Provide a small step stool for the bathroom. Some children may want to look in the mirror when brushing
  • Check older children’s toothbrush for wear – if it is worn or frayed in less than three (3) months, they may be brushing too hard
  • Use a two-minute timer or have your child brush to a favorite song
  • Use floss to clean between the teeth once a day. Start flossing as soon as there are two (2) teeth that touch (ADA).

How Can I Help My Child Brush Their Teeth Daily?

  • Try to make brushing a fun time instead of a task. Your child may be more willing to keep up with their daily brushing if you are upbeat and creative.
  • Be patient. Teaching your child how to brush can create a better learning experience when you are calm.
  • Be a good role model. Practice your daily brushing routine. This may help influence your child to brush daily, by watching you take care of your teeth.
  • Reward you child for good dental care. Offer non-food items such as books, games, or playtime together.
  • Continue to provide older children with oral care support until you feel they can brush on their own.

Ask your child’s dentist for guidance on proper dental care for your children.  He or she will be happy to help.

More resources to help your children brush their teeth daily.

Smile Habits OC provides oral health information to help you and your children maintain a healthy, lifelong smile.

Colgate The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares the health benefits of non-food rewards. See a list of non-food rewards kids will enjoy.

Delta Dental. Fun ways to help children brush their teeth properly.

National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness. Information for parents of young children about oral health.


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