It is normal for parents to be anxious and worry about their children’s health. But this feeling of anxiety tends to be really high especially if you are a new parent. Having little to no experience of raising a child, most new parents think that whatever they are doing for their babies is wrong, even when they are doing just fine. When you become parents, there are so many things about your child that will concern you – his eating habits, sleeping patterns, health, milestones, homework (when he starts going to school) and so on – that his dental hygiene would be the last thing on your mind. But it’s not something that should be ignored.
As per a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most kids brush their teeth incorrectly. Yes, this may seem like a trivial reason for you to not let your child brush his teeth alone, but wait, there’s more. Kids usually tend to use too much toothpaste while brushing their teeth, which puts them at an increased risk of dental fluorosis (especially, if the toothpaste contains fluoride). Dental fluorosis is characterised by the appearance of white spots or lines on the teeth. This condition occurs in childhood when a child’s teeth are developing. When children ingest too much of fluoride while their teeth are developing, it puts them at a risk of dental fluorosis. Most toothpastes contain fluoride, which is essential for fighting dental caries and cavities, but too much of it can cause discolouration and pitting.
However, that doesn’t mean you should stop your child from using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is an essential mineral for children and adults alike. It protects the teeth from acid damage and can help reverse the early signs of tooth decay. But overexposure to it in the first eight years of your child’s life increases his risk of being affected by dental fluorosis. Hence, as parents, it is crucial that you pay attention to your child’s oral hygiene right from an early age and keep an eye on him while he spreads toothpaste onto his toothbrush. Better yet, do it for him.
How Much Toothpaste Should Your Child Use?
While growing up, your child will most likely try to exercise his independence and would want to brush his teeth on his own. You can let him do so, as long as you make sure that he uses the right amount of toothpaste.
- For children below the age of 3 years, the amount of toothpaste used should not be more than a smear or the size of a rice grain.
- For children between the ages of 3 and 6 years, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is recommended.
- For anyone older, a ribbon-sized amount of toothpaste, spread along the length of the toothbrush, should be used.
Tips to Help Your Child Brush His Teeth in the Right Manner
Many parents struggle to get their children to brush their teeth in the right manner. Your child may not let you help him brush his teeth, but like every other responsible parent, you will have to intervene to teach him the right way of brushing his teeth as follows:
- As mentioned, make sure that your child squeezes the toothpaste in the recommended amount onto his toothbrush. If your child is too young, you can squeeze the toothpaste onto his brush and brush his teeth for him.
- Make your child hold his toothbrush in a way that the bristles of the toothbrush are at a 45° angle to the surface of the teeth while he brushes them.
- Teach your child to brush his teeth in small circles and not aggressively.
- Now, this is a tip to help you buy the right toothbrush for your child. Buy a toothbrush with soft bristles as harsh bristles can cause abrasions if used aggressively.
- Most children tend to swallow some amount of toothpaste while brushing their teeth. Your child may also inadvertently swallow toothpaste sometimes, which could lead to an upset stomach or other health-related problems in him. To prevent him from swallowing toothpaste, try to angle your child’s head such that it’s facing downwards slightly, so that the excess toothpaste will dribble out of his mouth. And as mentioned above, use the toothpaste in the right amount.
Usually, children start brushing their teeth on their own by 6 or 7 years of age. If your child too has started brushing his teeth on his own, as a parent, obviously you’d be happy. Your child is meeting his milestones on time and has started brushing his teeth on his own, and you probably have one less thing to worry about; but think again, because he might not be doing it right. If your child is too young, it’s best not to let him brush his teeth alone. However, if he’s old enough to understand it, instead of standing guard every time your child has to brush, explain to him how much toothpaste he should be using. Once he gets the hang of it, you will have nothing to worry about; well, at least, not about his oral health!