Brushing teeth. If you have a preschooler (ages 2-5), you should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste – once after breakfast and once at night right before bed. The last thing your child’s teeth should touch before going to bed and for the rest of the night is the toothpaste from their toothbrush. Use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and smear it into the bristles with your finger in order to minimize swallowing. Brush your preschooler’s teeth for at least two minutes each time. Teach your child to spit out the toothpaste as soon as possible after brushing.
Proper toothpaste. For very young children (ages 2-3), avoid sweet-tasting children’s toothpastes that your child may be more apt to swallow, and instead use a pea-sized amount of adult toothpaste like Colgate Total®, which contains triclosan with additional antibacterial, anti-tartar, and gum health benefits.
Supervision during brushing teeth. Young children should always be supervised while brushing and taught to spit out rather than to swallow toothpaste. You should brush your child’s teeth until they are 7-8 years old because your child lacks the manual dexterity to do so properly until that age. Brushing should last for two minutes. Once you have observed that your child can brush properly on their own, let them brush independently.
Flossing. Flossing should begin when and where teeth are touching. Back molars usually begin touching at ages 3-4. At this point, food can easily get trapped between the teeth, leading to cavities.
6 - 11 years
It’s tooth fairy time! Around age six, your child will begin to lose primary teeth in the front and will gain permanent teeth in the front and back. Once the teeth start to touch (could be around ages 3–5), you should floss your child’s teeth (flossers work well). Children typically don’t brush along the gum line or on the back teeth, so pay special attention to these problem areas. However, since almost 90% of cavities in permanent molars occur in the grooves, dental sealants are a great way to protect the permanent molars and the other teeth at risk of getting decay. Sealants are a white coating that is placed over the grooves of the teeth to prevent plaque and food from getting stuck, causing cavities.
Up until your child is seven years old, you should assist him/her while brushing because children often lack the motor skills to brush correctly. After that, observe your child’s technique, and assist where necessary until he/she can effectively brush without supervision. Brush your teeth at the same time to help teach your child to brush by mimicking you. Although a regular children’s brush is perfectly fine for cleaning teeth, sometimes a children’s electric toothbrush can make the experience more fun for your child, increasing motivation to brush. Once again, tooth brushing should take place twice a day once in the morning after breakfast and again right before bedtime. Brushing after snacks is ideal, too. At ages six and above, brushing should take two minutes each time.
When brushing your teeth and your child’s teeth, angle the toothbrush at 45˚ towards the gum-line, and use small circular strokes. Brush the front of the teeth, behind the teeth, and the chewing surfaces of teeth. Don’t forget to brush the tongue in order to remove potential bad breath bacteria and other harmful microorganisms. Take two full minutes to brush properly.
During these ages and older, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask our team about mouth guards to protect your child’s teeth during sports.
12 - 18 years
By 12-13 years of age, all of the baby teeth are usually gone, and all of the permanent “adult” teeth are in except for the third molars (wisdom teeth), which most often arrive by age 21. As teens grow more independent and have further control of their diet and habits, it is common to see an increase in cavities. Soda, candy, and a lack of consistent or effective brushing and flossing is typically the culprit. Self–awareness also becomes more prominent, and your teen may notice if they have discolored teeth or crooked teeth. Talk with our team regarding options for both braces and for whitening.
Additionally, we take a panoramic X-ray of your child’s jaws to check the development of third molars (wisdom teeth), and, when indicated, will refer your child to an oral surgeon for removal. Be sure to let our office know if your child is experiencing pain from their wisdom teeth.
Unfortunately, substance abuse may also begin during this stage (90% of adult smokers began before age 19), so monitor your child for signs of alcohol or tobacco use. Finally, eating disorders are also common, and in addition to many other serious issues, can damage the teeth. Please talk with our office regarding assistance with any of these common issues of adolescence.
During these ages, children become more active with sports, and dental injuries are very common. Ask our team about mouth guards to protect your child’s teeth during sports.