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FAQ: 6 Rules for Brushing Kids' Teeth

Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy  February 21, 2014 07:47 AM

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Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 3.19.10 PM.pngAs a pediatrician, I talk about brushing teeth all the time. It's such an ordinary, obvious thing to do--and yet it turns out that people have lots of questions about it. Here's everything you need to know:

1. Start as soon as they have teeth. Some advocate starting even before, by brushing gums (at the very least, it gets good habits started early)--but once the teeth are there, you need to start taking care of them. (As for flossing, start that as soon as there are two teeth next to each other).

2. Use a toothbrush designed for the child's age. Luckily, they make it easy by labeling them. If you're not sure which to use, ask your dentist or doctor.

3. Use fluoride toothpaste. It really makes a difference when it comes to preventing cavities, so use it right from the start. For kids under 2, use just a smear on the bristles; starting at 2, you can use a pea-sized amount (note: while this is the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association says to use just the smear through age 3). 

4. Help kids brush until they are old enough to tie their shoes (around age 7). Before that, they might not...

5. Brush all the teeth, especially the back molars (that are prone to cavities).

6. Brush for 2 minutes. I know, this may seem like an eternity. But it's what's recommended to really get those teeth clean, and that's what we want. Sing a song (the ABC song takes about 30 seconds if you don't rush--you could do it 4 times) or find other fun ways to pass the time. Set a timer, if that helps.

See, that's so easy. You're an expert now.

For more information on brushing kids' teeth, check out the information on toothbrushing from the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About MD Mama

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »

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