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Happy Mouths, Happy Kids

How to Get Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

Children often seem resistant to habits that are in their best interest. However, we have a number of ways to help your kids learn to brush and floss regularly, as well as to enjoy the process. Our experienced pediatric dentists, Dr. William Chan, Dr. Denise Goodman, and Dr. Nick Lavoie, recommend children begin brushing and flossing on their own at the age of 6. Between the ages of 2 and 6, you should do the brushing for them, taking the time to explain what you’re doing, advising them on the correct techniques, and engaging them in the process. This is an excellent opportunity to bond with your little one and to make routine oral hygiene a fun, loving experience. Three times daily the teeth should be brushed: once after breakfast, once after lunch, and again after dinner before bedtime. Flossing should occur once a day.

The sooner you begin good habits, the more likely they’ll naturally stick.

Brush and Floss Your Teeth with Your Children

Kids often model their habits after their parents. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to get your child interested in brushing and flossing is to perform the routine alongside them. If the parents have excellent oral hygiene habits, the kids often will too.

Don’t Tell Them Scary Stories About the Dentist

It may seem tempting to warn the children that they could get caries (cavities) and damage if they don’t brush, and that they’ll then be forced to endure an uncomfortable procedure at the dentist. Kids that are afraid of the dentist are often less cooperative about oral hygiene on the whole, rather than more so. They may also put up a fuss about dental appointments in the future, as they may fear visiting the dentist.

Provide Positive Reinforcement

Bribery isn’t necessary for good brushing behavior. Offering your young ones affection and compliments for a job well done is often enough to make them want to maintain healthy habits. Watch them brush, gently correct any errors in technique, and provide plenty of warm compliments each time they complete the task.

In general, we recommend using soft circles with a soft-bristled brush to massage the teeth and gums, from the top down. You should brush the teeth three times daily for two minutes each time. Feel free to give the child a (kid-safe) hourglass or a stopwatch to mark the time, or to utilize an electric toothbrush with an included timer, to help keep track. If you have questions about technique, we will be happy to show you during your visit or explain it over the phone.

Common Dental Concerns in Children

Some of the issues that can crop up in a child’s oral health history are similar to those an adult may see, like dental decay and gum disease, and others are unique to this stage of life, such as bottle feeding. We will be happy to discuss any concerns or questions you may have during your appointment. In addition to offering kids dental treatments, we have also provided a quick overview of some of the most regularly occurring situations below.

Baby Bottles and Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can develop in baby teeth just as it can in mature teeth. Just because primary teeth will someday fall out does not mean that it is ok to let caries or other concerns develop. Primary teeth help a child speak clearly and chew normally. They also serve as a pathway for their permanent teeth. Good brushing and flossing habits are essential. Additionally, children should not nurse immediately before bed or go to bed with a bottle of milk or juice. Only water should be given after nightly teeth brushing to reduce the risk of decay.


Sucking is a natural behavior for children, many of whom may begin thumb- or finger-sucking in the womb. Most children outgrow this habit around the age of two to four years. If your child continues to suck their thumb by the time permanent teeth begin coming in, you may wish to help stop this action. There are many methods to halt thumb-sucking gently and effectively, and we can provide resources if needed.

Gum Disease

Poor oral hygiene can lead to gingivitis, also known as gum disease. This common condition affects adults as well as children and can be prevented in most cases by diligently brushing and flossing daily. If you notice your child has bad breath, describes a bad taste in their mouth, bleeds while brushing or flossing, or has another oral concern, we recommend you schedule an appointment to evaluate their gum health.

Nutrition and Oral Health

Brushing and flossing are intrinsic parts of maintaining a healthy, happy smile, and so is consuming a nutritious and healthful diet. A balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and limited fats and sugars can help keep your child’s mouth in top shape. We can offer additional dietary tips and recommendations during your visit if you’re uncertain which foods and beverages are good choices for your young one.

For more information about pediatric brushing and flossing tips, or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our of our dentists, please contact our office today.