The ABCs of proper brushing

Back-to-school time is the perfect time to learn the ABCs of brushing

For kids, brushing their teeth isn't always top of mind, and getting them to brush properly can be a real challenge for parents. But getting back into daily school routines is a great time to make sure kids are brushing often - and properly.

"Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of absences from school, and can greatly affect a child's academic performance," says Dr. Harry Höediono, President of the Ontario Dental Association. "With proper brushing, twice a day, every parent can help ensure their children have the best possible oral health as they start a new school year."

Brushing your teeth properly at least twice a day helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Let your child watch you brush your teeth as often as possible. Children are wonderful imitators, and there's nothing like a parent's example to teach them the way to healthy dental practices.

You can also make brushing fun and easy by learning the ABCs of proper brushing:

  • Avoid hard scrubbing. Children can be hard on toothbrushes. If the bristles get bent or worn down, they will not do a good job, and may hurt your child's gums.
  • Brush your teeth for two to three minutes. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and gently brush in short strokes from where the tooth and gum meet to the top of the tooth.
  • Clean all surfaces of your teeth, including the chewing surfaces and inner areas. Don't forget to also brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

The best kind of brush for children is soft, with rounded bristles, and should be the right size for your child's mouth. Replace toothbrushes at least every three or four months, or after an illness.

If you're still unsure about proper brushing techniques, ask your dentist.

"If your child doesn't have the co-ordination necessary for proper tooth brushing, brush your child's teeth first and then let him or her finish off," advises Dr. Höediono. "Proper oral health care can be a family affair."

For more oral-health tips, visit




The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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