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Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat

An easy breakdown for how to care for your child’s teeth.

The holidays are around the corner and that means lots of friends, family, and food! It also means making sure your kids are taking care of their teeth properly before and after all these rich meals.

Proper dental care has many practical reasons, including preventing tooth decay (aka cavities) from forming. Did you know that tooth decay can cause your child pain, make it hard for them to chew, embarrass them when they smile or talk, or create problems with their adult teeth? We put together a breakdown of how to brush and floss correctly so your kids can show a healthy smile for a lifetime of holidays!

The right way to brush

Infants to Toddlers

  • Before your baby starts teething, run a clean, damp washcloth over the gums to clear away harmful bacteria.

  • When your baby gets teeth, brush them with an infant toothbrush. Use water and a tiny bit of fluoride toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice).

  • When two of your baby's teeth touch, you can begin flossing between them.

  • Around age 2, your child should learn to spit while brushing (avoid giving your child water to swish and spit because this can make swallowing toothpaste more likely).

Kids age 3 and up

  • Let your child choose a toothbrush in a favorite color or with a character from a TV show or movie. Just make sure it’s the right size for your child’s mouth.

  • Break the brushing process into small, easy steps so the child can understand and practice.

    1. Apply the right amount of toothpaste. The ADA recommends a pea-size amount for children ages three and up.

    2. Angle the toothbrush 45 degrees. The toothbrush should be facing towards the gums of the upper or lower teeth.

    3. Move the brush gently back and forth with short, tooth-size strokes. Continue this technique for the interior, exterior, and chewing surfaces of the teeth.

    4. Place the toothbrush in the vertical position to brush front teeth. Make sure to clean the front and back.

    5. Brush the tongue to remove bacteria from the surface.

  • Make a checklist and have your child add a sticker every time they brush.

  • Sing or play a song to help your child brush for 2 minutes. P.S. There are many free phone apps that sing along with your kids while also showing them how to brush their teeth!

  • Around age 7 or 8, kids can start to brush their own teeth - but don’t forget to check in!

The right way to floss

Flossing ensures the spaces between your teeth get clean. It also helps to prevent plaque and bacteria buildup, which can cause cavities or gum disease. Regular flossing removes debris lodged between teeth, helps manage bad breath, and can polish the surface of your child’s teeth.

Follow these steps when flossing at least once daily:

  • Break off about 18 inches of floss. Wind it around each of your middle fingers or hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

  • Work the floss in an up-and-down motion around every surface of the tooth, making sure to work below the gum line to effectively remove any debris and plaque from the surface.

  • Bend the floss in a C-shape on each side of the tooth to get a thorough cleaning.

Remember, take your child to the dentist for a checkup by age 1 to start oral health checkups early and to prevent things like tooth decay. Don’t forget to ask us for other tips on how to clean your child’s teeth and keep your child’s mouth healthy. Happy holidays!

Resources:, Kids Health, Healthline, Healthy Children, Colgate

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