Toothbrush types for children
Before your baby's teeth even start erupting, it is a good idea to get him used to cleaning his mouth. After you feed him, gently wipe his gums with a damp washcloth wrapped around a finger.
Once the teeth appear, it is time to confront the wall of toothbrushes at your local store and decide which is best.
The objective is to reach all surfaces of your teeth, therefore the size of the toothbrush head is important. This is particularly so for young children with small mouths. Ensure the length of the handle is adequate for comfortable use since you will be the one holding the toothbrush!
Along with choices in head size, there are a variety of bristle options - soft, medium or hard. The best option, for all ages, is soft bristles. This is because it is very easy to damage the gums, enamel and surface of the tooth's roots with a hard brush. Damaged enamel is also at greater risk of discolouration through staining and can become more sensitive. In addition, once the enamel is gone, it can't be replaced.
Electric toothbrushes are often easier for parents to use on their children that a manual toothbrush. Because the head moves, you do not have to worry as much about poor brushing technique. Be sure that you hold the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle towards the gums when brushing the sides of the teeth. You should see the bristles massaging down into the gums while brushing these surfaces. A small enough head and soft bristles are still essential on electric toothbrush.
It is recommended that you clean your teeth for two minutes, at least twice daily. Brush after breakfast (before breakfast if this is not possible) and brush right before bed. Some electronic toothbrushes will beep when your two minutes are up or come with a separate timer. This is a great way to ensure you do your teeth justice and to take away the guess work. If you are using a manual toothbrush, find a song your child likes that is close to 2 minutes long and play this 'toothbrush song' every morning and night when brushing the teeth.
Most dentists recommend that your toothbrush is replaced every 3-6 months. If the toothbrush bristles are splayed out and not perfectly straight after 3 months of use, not only do you need a new toothbrush, but you are brushing too hard!
Finally, to all the mums and dads out there - YOU need to be the one brushing your child's teeth. If your child cannot tie their own shoes, they cannot brush their own teeth. Tying their shoes is a good measure of your child's 'manual dexterity' and usually cannot be done properly until 7-8 years old. Before this ages you cannot expect your child to do as good of a job cleaning the teeth as you can do. If you child wants to brush on their own before they are ready, let them brush and then afterwards brush their teeth for them as though they haven't brushed at all!
This article was written for kidspot.co.nz by Dr. Amy Goodwin, Lumino The Dentists
Last revised: Thursday, 30 April 2015
This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional.