Practical Dad

Caring For Your Child’s Teeth

It's finally time to start brushing your daughter's teeth.  You've been using a damp gauzepad to wipe her teeth and gums and she now has enough teeth to justify using a small, soft-bristled brush.

And if you're like me, the question is...now what?  How long until she can brush for herself?  When can she start doing it without my being there?  Just how long should each brushing session be?  When can we start flossing?

How long until she can brush for herself?

There's no hard and fast answer for this question, unfortunately, and depends upon the parents' judgment.  It can depend upon how well she can hold a brush and how thorough - and her thorough differs from your thorough - she appears to be in brushing.  You might consider doing it simultaneously and then letting her finish, or vice versa.  It will simply depend upon your comfort level.  But this leads to the next question.

How long do I have to be there while she brushes?

This is going to be for a long time.  My dentist's hygienists asked me if I was there for my kids' brushing, even when they were five years of age.  It's only by being there that you can determine how she's doing and correct anything that she might be doing wrong.  And it's only by being there that you can develop that comfort level.

When we brush, how long should we brush?

A simple way to track how long you should brush is to hum "The Birthday Song" twice through.  Make it a standing tradition to hum the tune and then when she's old enough to hum it, have her do it for you since you love to hear her hum it sooooo much.  It consequently becomes an ingrained habit.  Others have simply used an egg-timer set to two minutes.  Enterprising toothpaste manufacturers even now have a musical cap that plays a melody once the cap opens and the child brushes while the music plays.  Just bear in mind that with this method, your daughter should be old enough to swish and spit.  Or simply create your own song to accompany the act. 

When can we start flossing?

Flossing can also start very early, but you'll have to do it at first.  To ease the job, your dentist can provide a small flossing device that resembles a tiny bow - as in arrow.  The floss is strung between two ends of bent plastic and it can easily be held and manipulated by small fingers.  There is no difference between when a child and an adult should floss.

There's more than just a financial cost to a small child's problem mouth.  Invest the time necessary and you'll find that you hopefully won't have to invest the time, money and emotional energy later.

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