How Do I Know Which Toothbrush My Child Needs?
In the modern world we are faced with an embarrassment of choices when it comes time to pick most any kind of consumer good, and children’s dental utensils and supplies are certainly no exception. Coupled with the fact that children’s needs vary greatly as they age, it may make for confusion when selecting something as simple as a toothbrush. These guidelines should give you a little help, but always remember to consult your local pediatric dentist for the best advice about your individual child.
Babies and Preschoolers
You should start brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as they appear. The smallest toothbrushes are sized to easily fit in a baby’s mouth and will have very soft bristles to avoid irritating the gums. At first you can just brush with plain water, but once a few baby teeth have erupted, it is time to start using a non-fluoride toothpaste to help gently scrub them. These are widely available in many styles and flavors, and as soon as your child is old enough, they should be encouraged to select the variety of their choice in order to better contribute to their positive attitude about brushing.
By age two your child should be able to start participating in brushing their own teeth. Allowing them to pick their own brush — so long as it correct to their age group — will help them get excited about brushing themselves. Brushes made for toddlers will have small heads attached to larger, fatter handles, often with soft grips. There are also numerous electric versions available, some with built-in timers that encourage kids to make a game out of making sure they brush the entire two minutes they are allotted for the task. Also at this age, it is time to switch to a fluoride toothpaste; just make sure your child understands the importance of spitting it out after brushing, rather than swallowing.
Once the primary teeth start filling in, regular flossing is important, too. If using plain loose floss is too difficult, start with individual floss picks, which are more maneuverable in the small space inside a child’s mouth.
Elementary School Age Kids
As your child grows, different toothbrushes will be required to best adapt to his or her changing body. Kids up through ages eight to ten typically use brushes with thinner handles and slightly larger heads than the toddler models. During this period the mouth will be filled with an ever-changing combination of both baby and adult teeth, and brushes designed for children this age are engineered to accomodate this.
Electric toothbrushes with moving bristles are not necessary for complete cleaning of teeth, but studies by the American Dental Association demonstrate that powered models may make it easier for some children who have difficulty manipulating a manual brush.
By age eight most children can be trusted to brush and floss solo. But even kids who show they know how to properly brush during this period should still be monitored by adults to make sure they do so every time.
Tweens and Teens
During this period of rapid and constant change, your child will transition from using children’s brushes to adult models. So long as the brush fits well in both the hand and mouth, and is used in conjunction with a fluoride toothpaste twice daily (and flossing at least once a day), your young adult is set to take responsibility for their own dental self-care for the rest of their life.
Developing positive associations and optimal habits early on in life go a long way toward ensuring any given child grows into a healthy adult with a mouth full of strong, healthy teeth. Regular visits to a pediatric dentist, in addition to proper daily self-care, balanced nutrition and avoiding sugary snacks all work together toward the goal of excellent oral health for life!