TOOTH Brushing and Flossing

Toddlers can and should be encouraged to help brush their teeth as soon as they can hold a brush.

Parents should brush preschoolers’ teeth and supervise the brushing for school-age children until they are 7 to 8 years of age (about the same time they can tie their own shoelaces or write in cursive). Choose a toothbrush designed for children’s smaller hands and mouths. Look for large handles that help children control the toothbrush.


The best toothbrushes have soft, round-ended (polished) bristles that clean while being gentle on the gums. Remember to throw out a toothbrush after 3 months or sooner if the bristles are fraying. Frayed bristles can harm the gums and are not as effective in cleaning teeth.  The best times to brush are after breakfast and before bed.  The child should use toothpaste with fluoride and the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. Young children, especially preschool-aged children, should not swallow any toothpaste. Careful supervision is encouraged.


For children under 3-years-old, use a smear or rice-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste. For those 3 to 6 years old, nor more than a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste on the brush is recommended. Ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorosis of the developing teeth. Fluorosis usually is mild with tiny white specks or streaks that often are unnoticeable.


When all sides of a tooth cannot be cleaned by brushing alone, it is time to begin flossing the child’s teeth. The best way is to use a disposable floss tool that come in packs of 20+.  These can be handled easily by small children as they learn to floss each tooth. Parents should regularly supervise this activity to ensure they are flossing each tooth.