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Brush Up on Dental Care for Children

Brushing your teeth regularly and properly is the best way to remove harmful plaque – a thin, sticky film loaded with bacteria. That’s why Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) offers this guide to help you keep your children’s teeth clean and healthy.

When to start

Even before your child has teeth, it's important to start mouth care. Gently rub a damp washcloth or piece of gauze over your infant’s gums to help clean his or her mouth.

Start brushing your child’s teeth when his or her first tooth appears. Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice, on a soft-bristled toothbrush. When your child is about 3, you can use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Your child will need help brushing his or her teeth until the age of about 7 or 8.

The right way to brush

Dentists recommend the following method:

  • Step 1: Place the toothbrush beside the teeth at a 45-degree angle.

  • Step 2: Gently brush only a small group of teeth at a time (in a circular motion) until the entire mouth is covered.

  • Step 3: Brush the outside of the teeth, inside of the teeth and the chewing surfaces.

  • Step 4: Gently brush the tongue to remove bacteria and freshen breath.

How often to brush

Brush your child’s teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time. You may think you are brushing long enough, but most people spend less than one minute brushing.

Choosing a toothbrush and toothpaste

When your child is old enough to brush his or her own teeth, you will need to select a toothbrush. Pick a toothbrush with a small head – about 1 inch by 1/2 inch – and a handle your child can grasp. The bristles of the brush should be soft, nylon and rounded at the ends.

You can choose whichever brand or type of toothpaste you prefer – as long as it contains fluoride. All fluoride toothpastes effectively fight plaque and cavities, and clean and polish tooth enamel.

Choose a brand with the American Dental Association seal of approval on the container. That means it’s safe and effective.

Visit us at LVHN.org/children to learn more about how Lehigh Valley Health Network cares for children and to find a doctor in our network.