Blog series: how to brush

Posted 27 May 2016

Dr James Russell

I know from experience that it can be hard to brush your children’s teeth, especially just before bed when they are tired, but it has to be done! So to give you a helping hand, here’s my guide on how to brush your children’s teeth.

Time to brush

It doesn’t matter how old your child is, it is still good to aim for two minutes of brushing time twice a day. While that might seem long, there’s quite a lot to get through. If you divide the mouth into quarters (top right, top left, bottom right and bottom left) then this is only 30 second per quarter. Within this 30 seconds don’t forget about brushing the cheek side, tongue, palate side and biting surfaces for around 10 seconds per area.

Positive role modelling is important when you brush. I like to tell my children where I am brushing, why I’m brushing that area and how long for. The aim of this is for them to understand better why we brush the way we do and that way they can put these good habits into practice when doing it themselves. With my 4 year old we tend to mess about and make up what is stuck in the teeth. The oddest thing was a crocodile! Definitely worth brushing that away!

Brush up on your brushing

It’s not just about how long you brush for, it’s also important to make sure you are brushing in the right way.

Remember don’t just brush your teeth but also brush where the tooth meets the gum. The ideal technique for this area is to brush at 45 degree angle toward the gum line, make sure you show your child how to do this.

Another good tip is to get the brush bristles into all the grooves on the biting surface of the teeth, as food can easily get stuck in these areas and can cause decay.

Choices: Electric or manual?

Both manual and electric toothbrushes work well if used properly. But if your children are reluctant brushers or they find brushing difficult, an electric brush may be more motivating or easier.

It’s important that they know that an electric toothbrush cannot do all the work on its own and the correct brushing technique is still needed.

Whichever brush you chose you need to maintain it. Make sure you replace the brush or head every three months. And don’t forget that electric brushes work best when properly charged or when batteries are full.

Brushes come in a variety of colours and character themes which can help your children get more excited about brushing.

Any questions about brushes then just ask your dentist who will give help and advice.

Make it fun!

Making it fun can encourage good habits with less fuss!

Here are some simple ideas:

Together is better: Children love to copy their parents so brush together means you can keep it fun while still demonstrating a good technique.

Watch the clock: Having a timer can help make brushing a challenge. There some great apps that combine the timer with pictures and music.

It’s your special brush: Brushes come in an amazing variety of shapes and characters so each child can have their own personal brush. Toothpastes also come in a range of flavours that children may prefer.

Get them interested in brushing: There are some fantastic books and video clips that help educate children about teeth and why brushing is important. For example, I think this clip is great!

You’re a star: Giving rewards for brushing properly via a start chart is a great way to motivate children.

Happy brushing!