A new parent’s guide to children’s dental care

by: Sandy Johnson, RDH

As parents, we often say “brush your teeth” to our kids, but the most important part of urging our kids to brush is making sure that they know how to do it correctly. Unfortunately, most of the great parenting literature out there seems to always overlook dental care, so I’ve put together a quick overview to help you get your kids brushing like a pro.


First, make sure they have the right tools for the job. Their oral care needs at 3 are very different than they are at 13, so always consider their age when choosing oral hygiene tools. 

• Toothbrush: An electric power toothbrush is usually the best choice as it effectively cleans the child’s teeth even in those hard to reach areas. There are several on the market to choose from with a large variance in cost and efficacy so be sure to speak with your dental professional to determine which power brush would best meet your child’s needs. If a power brush is not an option at this time, choose a soft bristled brush that’s appropriately sized for their mouth. Don’t shy away from the fun, cartoon themed brushes. If it gets them excited about brushing, it’s worth the extra dollar. 

• Toothpaste: If your child is quite young (too young to not swallow the toothpaste) be sure to choose one that is made for an infant so it won’t upset their stomach. As they get older, get them involved with choosing the flavor so they get one that they enjoy. 

• Floss: Choose wide floss if they have gaps in their teeth, or small floss if their teeth are tight together. If they have braces, be sure to include flossing picks in the mix.  


Armed with the right tools, focus on the fundamentals. 

• Motion: Brushing should be in continuous, circular motions, rather than simply “sweeping” the bristles across the teeth. 

• Location: Be sure they are getting every surface of every tooth – front, back and top with the brush and both sides with floss. Pay close attention to the molars, as these are the teeth most often neglected. 

• Time: Set a timer for at least two minutes to ensure they are brushing long enough to really get their teeth clean. 


Never underestimate the power of rewards. From simple praise for a job well done to a bump in allowance, kids respond to rewards! Of course, try to avoid using candy.

Do you have reward suggestions? Let us know in the comments.

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