At Alameda Pediatric Dentistry, we always stress the importance of maintaining a good oral hygiene routine with our patients and their families. Achieving a clean, healthy smile starts with regular brushing and flossing. We brush and floss in order to remove food particles that can accumulate on the teeth, which eventually turn into plaque. The bacteria that result from this accumulation can cause tooth decay, gum disease and even loss of teeth. Brushing and flossing help avoid these unhealthy conditions and subsequent costly treatments in the long run. Read below for proper instructions on how to brush and floss, when to start and what to use.
When to start brushing
Before the age of 3, parents should clean their child’s teeth with water and soft-bristled toothbrush at least once a day at bedtime. After age 3, your child should use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small “pea-sized” amount of toothpaste. At this stage, parents should supervise brushing and make sure children do not swallow any excess toothpaste.
The correct way to brush
When you brush your child’s teeth, or when the brush them themselves, follow these simple steps for optimal results:
- Brush in small, circular motions to reach food particles under the gum line
- Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully
- Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth
- Brush the outside, inside and chewing surfaces of the teeth
- Brush the tongue and the roof of the mouth
- Rinse the mouth thoroughly with water
How often to brush
In order to avoid the accumulation of food particles and plaque, you should spend several minutes thoroughly brushing your teeth at these times:
- In the morning after breakfast
- After lunch or right after school
- After dinner
- At bedtime
As soon as bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one.
Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean tight spaces between the teeth effectively. Dental floss, a thin thread of waxed nylon, helps clean these hard-to-reach tooth surfaces and reduces the likelihood of gum disease and tooth decay. The American Dental Association recommends flossing once a day at night in order to have a clean mouth at bedtime. Gum bleeding is common when a child begins flossing. If it persists after the first few times, let a staff member know at your next appointment.
Follow these steps for effective flossing:
- Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser
- Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around your middle fingers
- Guide the floss between all of the teeth to the gum line, pulling out any food particles or plaque
- Unwrap clean floss from around your fingers as you go, so that you have used the floss from the beginning to the end when you finish
- Floss behind all of your back teeth