When should I start brushing my kid’s teeth?

Lee Wareham

I have been asked this question for many years. I love hearing these types of questions as this shows the love and dedication parents and carers have for their children.

Brushing kids’ teeth can be challenging, particularly in the early years. They practically wriggle away from you. They cannot comprehend the importance of such an exercise.

Nevertheless, multiple research papers suggest the incredible benefits of keeping the children’s dental hygiene to a good standard from an early age.

The recent Australian oral health report showed that about 34% of Australian 5 to 6-year-old have experienced tooth decay in their baby teeth. This means if we take a class of Kindergarten kids, one out of three kids would have expected to have dental decay.

In my working experience I have seen the gradual increase in tooth decay in children. Reducing sugar intake is important. Reducing the plaque accumulation on teeth also reduces the incidence of tooth decay.

The study also showed that only about 68% of children of those ages brush their teeth the recommended twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste.

Children like to emulate the adults around them. Show them that you brush your teeth regularly. As soon as the first baby teeth appear, use a face washer wrapped around your finger to rub gently on those teeth. The first tooth usually appears around 6 months of age. As you incorporate this routine into your baby’s bath time, there should be a very smooth progression into the next stage of using a toothbrush.

When you introduce a toothbrush it is good to sit the toddler in your lap facing away from you. Coming from the front of a child can be threatening for them. It is more effective if there is a mirror for them to see what is being done for them.

How long do you help with brushing?

Generally children do not have the manual dexterity to properly clean all the surfaces of their teeth until they are at least 10 years old. This is of course a generalised guide. As you demonstrate and guide them, they will surprise you with the ability they have in self-care. The routine of brushing their teeth twice daily is one of the easiest habits you can establish for them.

Happy brushing and do not forget their regular dental check up!