After months of watching your baby drool, fuss, and furiously gnaw on everything in sight, you finally see relief in sight as that first little tooth starts sneaking up through the gums. Over the next year or two, that adorable gummy smile will gradually transform into two rows of baby teeth, and although they’re not permanent, they’re still important! These primary teeth are the placeholders for adult teeth, so caring for them and keeping them free of tooth decay is essential to promoting and protecting their oral health.

One way to care for your child’s smile is to schedule an initial dental visit around their first birthday. Here at Children’s Dental Center, we’ll use this appointment as a non-threatening way for your child to meet and get to know our dentists in a friendly setting. We’ll also perform a comprehensive examination, and discuss a number of topics including:

  • good oral hygiene practices for healthy teeth and cavity prevention
  • fluoride needs
  • oral habits, such as thumb sucking, tongue thrusting, and lip sucking
  • developmental milestones and issues
  • teething
  • proper nutrition
  • the importance of regular dental checkups

Educating parents on normal dental developmental and the basics of oral health in children are important parts of this initial visit. This includes information on how to care for your child’s teeth until they are old enough to maintain their own dental hygiene routine. One of the very first steps to this is knowing what kind of toothbrush is appropriate. You may not have given it much thought before, but there are a few different factors that determine which toothbrush is best for your child. Let’s take a look at what you should take into account when buying your child’s first toothbrush!

Soft bristles

Because most children start to get their first teeth when they are around 4-7 months old, you’ll want to choose a toothbrush with soft bristles that will provide a painless brushing experience. In general, toothbrushes are available with various types of bristles, such as soft, medium, and hard. The packaging will usually indicate what kind of bristles that particular brush has, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.

A brush with soft bristles works well for small children, as it’s able to clean teeth effectively without irritating your child’s sensitive gums. Bristles in an angular shape are more prone to fraying, so look for those that are more rounded, and avoid anything that promotes rubber bristles. This added “feature” doesn’t actually provide any benefits.

Children's Dental Center staff talking with a family

Tiny brushes for tiny teeth

If you wouldn’t dress your child in your clothes, you shouldn’t use an adult-sized toothbrush on them, either. Young children have small mouths and tiny teeth, and require a brush that can fit comfortably between their back molars and cheek. Most toothbrush manufacturers offer brushes that are specifically made for infant oral care, with the appropriate age range listed on the packaging.

Easy handling

Before you know it, your child will be in the stage where they want to do everything on their own! You should continue to brush your baby’s teeth until he or she is old enough to brush thoroughly without supervision, and then supervise the process until your child can rinse and spit without assistance.  That usually happens around the time they start school, but it’s helpful to let them “practice” brushing as soon as they show interest in it.  A child doesn’t fully develop the manual dexterity to brush without supervision until around age eight.

If you have a younger child who has expressed a desire to brush their own teeth, consider what type of handle their toothbrush has. Toothbrushes come in a wide variety of handle shapes and sizes, and while there’s no hard and fast rule about which you should pick, you’ll definitely want to find one that is easy for your child to hold. Avoid any that are large or bulky. Handles that fit comfortably in your child’s hand will give them more control while brushing, making the process more effective. A brush with a rubberized handle will help make gripping easier.

Electric toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes remains a popular choice for children and adults alike. Although you can use an electric toothbrush for your child’s first brush, be sure to follow the same guidelines we’ve outlined above: soft bristles, small head, and an easy-to-grip-handle. Many electric toothbrushes are designed with bulky handles, so look for one that has been designed specifically for children since they will often have slimmer handles. A fun feature of some electric toothbrushes is the built-in timer, which helps you and your child adhere to the recommended two-minute brushing session twice a day.

When to replace toothbrushes

Your child’s first toothbrush won’t be their last! In general, we recommend you replace your child’s toothbrush every three months or so. There are times, however, when you may need to replace it more often. Some children are pretty hard on their toothbrush, wearing down the bristles sooner. If you notice that the bristles on your child’s toothbrush look misshapen or frayed, it’s time for a new one. Misshapen bristles can make cleaning less effective, and can also irritate sensitive gums.

We also recommend replacing your child’s toothbrush if they get sick. Bacteria can collect on the handles and bristles, prolonging or spreading the illness. If your child has a cold or the flu, change their toothbrush at both the beginning and end of their illness. This will prevent any lingering bacteria from making them sick after they start getting better.

Doctor talking with a child patient

Take the first step towards good oral health with Children’s Dental Center

Choosing a toothbrush that is perfectly suited to your child’s mouth is just the first step on a lifelong journey of good dental health. With about a million different toothbrushes on the market, it can sometimes seem a little overwhelming trying to pick the best one, but if you stick to the guidelines we’ve laid out for you, you shouldn’t have any trouble selecting a toothbrush that will keep your child’s teeth clean and their smile bright!

In addition to brushing regularly, be sure to schedule your baby’s first visit with Children’s Dental Center around their first birthday. If you have an older child, seeing us twice a year for a regular check-up and cleaning will go a long way towards keeping their teeth healthy and cavity free. Get in touch with us today to make an appointment, or if you need more information about how to choose the best toothbrush for your child. We take your child’s smile seriously at Children’s Dental Center!