, Salem, MA


February 4, 2014

Column: Smiling through Children’s Dental Health Month


I’ve heard it said that parents should brush their children’s teeth for the first seven years of life because kids lack the dexterity to do the job properly. This isn’t something that my parents knew to do, nor is it something I did with my own kids, but it sounds like it might be worth trying if you can get your kids to comply. And that’s a big “if.”

Focusing on preventing cavities with good oral hygiene, I asked Allison Evans, registered dental hygienist at Cabot Dental Associates in Beverly, for instructions about how to brush a young child’s teeth. Here’s what she said:

“The easiest way to brush a young child’s teeth is to start with them standing in front of the sink. If needed, have them stand on a step stool to accommodate height discrepancies. Next stand directly behind the child and instruct him/her to tilt his/her head back into your chest. This gives the brusher better control and vision.

“Brush the child’s teeth, using a circular motion on each tooth, without toothpaste for 30 seconds on the bottom and 30 seconds on the top. Then rinse the toothbrush with water and apply a small smear of toothpaste, no bigger than pea-sized, and re-brush both arches for another 30 seconds each. Toothpaste without fluoride, also known as training toothpaste, is recommended for children who haven’t mastered spitting.

“I have found with my patients and my own child that the first round of brushing without toothpaste is quite helpful to stop the ‘I-need-to-spit’ just when you’re getting into a good brushing rhythm.

“Some children love to brush their teeth and some don’t. My best advice is to try to make a game of it. It is sometimes helpful to tell children that you will start first and then they can finish up or say that after you brush their teeth, they can brush yours. If all else fails, positive reinforcement, such as a sticker chart, can be helpful, too.”

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