Brushing and Flossing: Basics

It is important to establish a good oral hygiene routine early. At first, your child may resist your brushing and flossing. Eventually, they will learn that it is part of their daily routine.


When Should I Start Brushing?

Even before teeth erupt, you should be wiping your baby’s gums with clean cloth or gauze. When teeth come in, start using a real toothbrush with a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Many babies do not like having their teeth brushed and take time to get used to the routine. If you are having difficulty, come see us and we can give you advice. 2 is the magic number. Brush 2 times a day and 2 minutes each time.

For information on the right amount of toothpaste, see my previous post Fluoride Facts.


When Should I Start Flossing?

As soon as two teeth touch, get flossing. Flossing is the only way to remove dental plaque accumulated between two teeth. You can start by using flosser sticks and gradually move on to regular floss string. The regular floss string is better at removing plaque compared to pre-threaded flosser or floss holder. Floss once a day at night time. if you have any difficulties flossing your child’s teeth, talk to Dr. Ella for tips and advice.


Do I Need to Help Them?

They can brush their front teeth by themselves if they want to. For the back teeth, an adult should help them until they are 8-10 years of age. Children can brush their teeth unassisted when they are able to tie their shoelaces by themselves.


Do I need to Supervise?

Until they are 10 years old, you should supervise their brushing and flossing. Teenagers will need reminders. A timer set for 2 minutes can help make sure they brush long enough.


Help! My Kid Doesn’t Want to Brush.

Cool Toothpaste: Get your child to pick out the toothpaste. Ones with cool packaging such as Spiderman or Dora might be enough to make your child interested in brushing.

Cool Toothbrush: You can get a toothbrush with a timer on it. There are toothbrushes that sing, shake and light up. Let your child choose.

Tooth Brushing Song: Pick a song and sing with your child. Ideally a song should go on for 2 minutes.

Tooth Brushing Game: Start from one corner of the mouth, pretend the teeth are a railway and the toothbrush is a train. The goal of the game is to make sure the train doesn’t fall off the teeth railway.

Swap the Role: Your child brushes your teeth and you brush your child’s teeth.


Dr. Ella Choi is a certified specialist in pediatric dentistry serving South Surrey, White Rock, Langley and Aldergrove in Beautiful British Columbia.