A Simple Tooth Brushing Routine for Kids

The following is by contributor Vanessa Brown of I Never Grew Up.

Understanding a bit about kid’s dental hygiene and establishing a good routine with your kids and teeth brushing really is setting yourself up for success.

From a Children’s Dentist Perspective

Recently I interviewed Dr. David M. Stewart of Little People’s Dental in South Jordan, Utah on establishing a good tooth brushing routine and here is what I learned:

  • Studies tell us that brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste can decrease the risk of tooth decay. Flossing daily can decrease the risk of periodontal disease and dental decay in between teeth.
  • Children do not have the dexterity to brush and floss well until around seven to nine years of age. At least once a day a parent should lay a child back and brush and floss their teeth as perfectly as they can, and then allow the child to brush at least one other time of the day.
  • For a more detailed how to and video on this you can watch Dr. Stewart go over the routine here: http://littlepeoplesdental.com/care-treatment/brushing-flossing/
  • Until the child is older the parent should “dose” the toothpaste for the child. A rice grain amount until they are six years of age and a small pea sized amount of toothpaste after that.

Tooth Brushing Station

In my home I simply have a drawer with small baskets in it and each of my girl’s have their very own toothbrush, toothpaste and floss. They are very involved at the store in picking out all of their “supplies” which makes them excited to use them at home.

We also have a radio nearby and we dance around sometimes while brushing our teeth, or I will tell them a silly story and sometimes we even tell knock knock jokes.

Our dentist also provided us with a “sand timer” like you can find in different board games to help the girls brush their teeth for a longer amount of time.

What do you do in your home to make the tooth brushing routine work for you and your kids?

About Vanessa

Vanessa Brown blogs over at I Never Grew Up. She has four little girls, two old dogs, and one dog training expert husband and is currently residing in Costa Rica.

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  1. While I certainly agree that brushing teeth is an important thing for little ones to learn, fluoride toothpaste should be carefully researched before you decide to use it for your family–sorry to sound like a loon, I know most toothpaste contains fluoride.

    A couple interesting articles:
    Candace´s latest post: Lotion Bars – Our Story &amp Etsy Listing

    • Doing careful research on fluoride before making a decision to use it in your family is an important point – thanks for bringing that to the conversation, Candace!

      Nothing loon-like about that 😉

      Best Wishes!

  2. Thank you for this article, Vanessa!

    I learned a few things I did not know before:
    1. I’ve probably been putting too much toothpaste on my kids’ toothbrushes
    2. I knew my littlest wasn’t ready to brush her teeth entirely on her own, but I had not idea that I should be assisting until my kids were 7 – 9. Though, the dexterity issue makes sense, for sure.

    We also do the “brush your teeth until the music stops” or “mommy tells a story while you brush” routine to keep the kids brushing longer. I like the idea of a simple timer, too.

    Here’s to healthy little smiles! 🙂

  3. We use a sand timer too. Our dentist also suggested electric/battery operated toothbrushes and they are GREAT! Because the bristles themselves are moving my kiddos don’t have to work quite so hard to do a good job. We always follow up with a “parent inspection” 🙂

  4. Starting at about 2 years old we had to really fight my daughter to brush her teeth, so we started having her stuffed frog do it. (We hold the brush in the frog’s “hand” and brush and use a funny voice to ask her to say “ah” and “ee”.) Lots of encouraging words, high-fives, etc. when she was cooperative, too. We also started giving her a small sticker ($2 for 100 of ’em!) when she did “a good job”, meaning not kicking, screaming and squirming. Now if she complains we just tell her that “Falafel (the frog) won’t be happy if you have dirty teeth!” Now she’s 3 and is generally very good about it. Oh, she also likes strawberry or mango flavored toothpaste made for kids.

  5. In Australia it recommended that children have special “children’s” toothpastes that contain less fluoride than adult toothpastes. Once the child learns to spit out the toothpaste it’s safe to give them adult pastes.

    I avoided giving my daughter any fluoridated toothpaste until she was two years old. We have fluoride in our drinking water here and I felt that was sufficient.

    A planet-friendly, fluoride-free toothpaste that my daughter loves is made by Weleda (http://usa.weleda.com/our-products/shop/children's-tooth-gel.aspx)

    Thanks for the tips on making brushing fun, I’m going to try the basket idea, seems like a good one!

  6. Thank you for all the tips on the toothpaste. Where we live in Utah I guess there is a lot of flouride in the water so you have to be EXTRA careful. I need to find a good toothpaste really soon.

  7. Our paediatric dentist says no fluoride toothpaste until they can spit it out, so we use Weleda children’s tooth gel. Toothbrushing happens after meals, while our little guy’s still in the high chair. We take turns (mommy’s turn is longer) and we sing: you gotta brush, brush, brush your little teeth…keep them shiny white! Now he says he wants to show the dentist his beautiful teeth. Every time.
    Frances´s latest post: One bad apple

  8. We brush every morning (and will be starting the evening routine too). A brushes her teeth while I brush her hair and mine, and while I brush my own teeth. Then Mommy does the “Brush Check” to see if she did a good job (which means I brush the teeth too). Flossing isn’t done as regularly as it should be – have to add that to the night-time routine.

  9. Great post! I do have one question/concern regarding the pediatric dentist’s recommendation for the at least once a day practice where the “parent should lay a child back and brush and floss their teeth as perfectly as they can…”

    Ach, our 6.5 y.o. daughter would be gagging every other second! That just does not seem practical, natural, nor too safe of a practice. I would think the child would have to have excellent “saliva control” (?! 🙂 in order to make this an enjoyable practice.
    It is important to have a good view and overall knowledge of the child’s mouth’s layout/architecture, but we manage that while standing up naturally at the sink. I have found some interesting images online recently which now hang next to the mirror so we (both brusher and brushee) can know better about where all the teeth are, as well as marking which baby ones lost so far.

  10. The fluoride issue is such a tricky one! We avoid it in our water at all costs and I used to avoid it in toothpastes until my then-three year-old son got a whole mouth full of cavities despite a really healthy diet (no candy or sticky foods, no sippy cups or bottles, no juices, an early childhood diet of mostly whole foods, breastmilk and spring water) despite twice daily tooth brushing with a non-fluoride toothpaste. Since my kids have inherited a propensity towards thin enamel and lots of cavities from my husband’s side of the family, we decided the benefits of fluoride in preventing further fillings and damage was worth it for them. We are very careful that they spit it out and rinse well, but it has made a big difference.

    Here’s some tips that work well when mine are little to get them to enjoy tooth brushing too. http://www.examiner.com/attachment-parenting-in-mankato/attachment-parenting-101-how-do-i-end-toothbrushing-battles
    Alicia´s latest post: Eating out with kids- How to make it fun for everyone

  11. I WISH I had a tip for getting my 2 1/2 year old daughter to brush her teeth! We have learned that she prefers a certain “flavor” of toothpaste, but other than that each day is an adventure!
    Just Plain Joy´s latest post: My Happiness Project- Living Healthy

  12. We have two sets of toothbrushes/paste for my girls, so that after breakfast they can brush their teeth downstairs in the bathroom next to the kitchen. The evening brushing happens upstairs after bathtime. Its just easier than going up and down the stairs.

    As for getting my now 3 year old to let me brush her teeth, when she was about 2 and a half we started searching for those “pesky sugar bugs”, we made it a laughing adventure, ie: “ahh look there’s one! Quick! Let’s get it!” and she still thinks its fun to go hunting for sugar bugs. I also let her have a turn to get them all out. Flossing for some reason has remained fun on its own though, so no enticing games are needed for that one.

  13. Carolyn says:

    On Carols post above regarding the pediatric dentist’s recommendations for once a day practice where the child lays back to floss our little ones teeth may not be safe. Children lay back on the dental chair each day and it is safe. It may not seem practical, but it is safe. I have seen this done many times and find it is not time saving or may not seem practical but it is tooth decay and money saving for sure. I work in a pediatric dental office we have parents come after 6 months of daily flossing this way they come back and say it was tough to add to the daily routine but once they get it to a routine it is easy. I bet Carol has found a way that works for her children and gets them done.

  14. 7 to 9 years. I never knew that. I still fight with my kids about brushing every morning. I just do it myself now.

  15. jonathan cunningham says:

    brushing teeth and flossing fun

  16. I like your idea of singing silly songs or telling jokes. My son is into anything silly these days (4 yrs old). Sometimes we pretend there’s a ketchup bug or mustard bug or some other type of food bug in his mouth and I am chasing it around in his mouth with the toothbrush. He really gets into this game and it makes the time pass more quickly for both of us. I’ve also found some good tips and helpful info on this Mom’s Guide (http://www.1dental.com/moms-guide/#loosing-teeth).