Since you were small, you have been taught the importance of teeth brushing for a healthy smile. Now, maybe you have little ones of your own that you are teaching or, maybe, you are just looking for some tips for better brushing for yourself. Whatever the reason, this article will offer you tips to help you improve your brushing or the brushing of a loved one. Your time and dedication to brushing your teeth regularly will pay you great dividends going forward. But, just brushing isn’t enough–quality brushing sessions are what make a difference to your smile. Learn how you can improve your brushing technique so that you can protect your teeth from the dangers of plaque buildup and tooth enamel erosion. Our Fort Collins Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies team is here to help and support you.
Some patients are surprised to learn that teeth brushing can have benefits even before teeth erupt. This is true! Babies and toddlers are much more apt to allow you to put a toothbrush in their mouths if you have been doing so since before they could even remember. Using a special gum brush or a washcloth, start brushing your baby’s gums early–before teeth erupt. This is good for habit forming, and helps keep gums healthy. With toddlers, it is important to implement methods of distraction or redirection (try keeping the water running while you are working on their teeth with them.) Make facial expressions or try singing while you open and close your mouth having them mimic you. You could also try giving your toddler a waterproof toy or book to play with while you brush their teeth. Engage them as much as you can in the process by having them face the mirror so they can see what is going on. Do not use toothpaste at this age. Toothpaste should not be used until a child is old enough to understand how to spit the toothpaste out and to not swallow it.
When you have a preschooler that is learning how to brush their teeth, parents will find the most success if they make it fun and interesting. Preschoolers are fascinated by many things and like to understand how things work. They like to feel like “big kids” and to have some (appropriate) responsibilities. Let your preschooler help choose his/her toothbrush and toothpaste. Preschoolers really enjoy the electric toothbrushes and tend to brush their teeth for longer with this tool since it does most of the work! At this age, it is a good idea to invest in a low-budget stopwatch or timer so that your child understands how long they need to be brushing. Look for books at the library (or make up your own) that talk about toothbrushing. Make this an interactive time with you and your preschooler. Brush your teeth at the same time as them to help them get excited about the process–just remember that you need to brush their teeth thoroughly at this age; they aren’t old enough to do it all by themselves yet. Remember to teach your preschooler how to spit out the toothpaste and remind them not to swallow it. Establish a routine so that your preschooler knows that every night at a certain time, it is ALWAYS time to brush his/her teeth.
As children progress from preschoolers to older children, they begin to take on more of the brushing responsibility themselves. HOWEVER, children between the ages of 6-10 still need you to help, evaluate, teach, and help them to consistently brush. Children need to make sure they brush each section, front and back. Your guidance and encouragement can help prevent serious plaque buildup and decay. Conduct follow-up brushing that is needed–your child might not appreciate it at the time, but they will appreciate it when they are examined and found to not have any cavities! Children need to be flossing at this age too. More and more of their permanent teeth are coming in and the gaps between their baby teeth are beginning to close allowing food to get trapped and eat away at enamel. Make flossing easy by giving your children easy flossing tools. Explain to them that a toothbrush can only get the fronts and backs of teeth–flossing gets the sides! Timers work especially well for this age. Children should set a timer for 2 minutes. Help your child form a habit of effective teeth brushing that takes the time necessary to get the job done. Some children will benefit from a tracking chart with stickers or recognition to help encourage them.
When your children have passed from baby, preschooler, child, to adolescent it is all about continuing to encourage what you have taught them since they were toothless! Brushing teeth should be an ingrained habit at this point. The busyness of life can cause adolescents (and adults) to shirk the amount of time and dedication they give to quality brushing. Though brushing is a fairly simple routine, it is also one of the easiest things you can perform incorrectly. While brushing after meals is recommended, brushing too soon after your meal can do more harm than good. The acidity of certain foods and beverages can weaken the enamel, and if you brush immediately after your meal, you may wind up brushing away the top layer off your tooth instead. To get the most out of your teeth brushing sessions, floss thoroughly and rinse your mouth with water. Make sure you use a toothbrush that has soft bristles–not too soft, not too hard–that massages your gums. Be careful not to brush too hard because this can wear away at your gum tissue. Brush in round circular motions from the top of your gum line and around for approximately 2 minutes–just like when you were younger. Make sure you brush the front AND backs of your teeth including your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 1-2 months.
If you have any questions about proper tooth brushing or if you need tips for helping a child master this skill, please do not hesitate to give our Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies office a call. Remember, that your dedication to proper oral hygiene at home is essential for keeping your mouth healthy and cavity free. It is recommended that you get dental checkups and professional cleanings at least twice a year.
If you’d like to know more about what you can do to preserve your smile, or if you’d like to make an appointment, call our Fort Collins office today at (970) 223-8425. You can also reach us after office hours by submitting a contact or appointment request online using the form below.