Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Yesterday I had my 6-month cleaning at the dentist's office. While I was sitting there, I thought I would do a little research.  Here are the ADA's recommendations for toothbrushing.  :)

* The American Dental Association recommends that we begin brushing a child's teeth as soon as they first appear and that we "help" brush their teeth up to age 8. Did you know they also recommend that children see their dentist for the first visit at no later than 1 year of age?
* Use toothpaste that does not contain flouride until at least age 2 (or longer) to ensure the flouride is not swallowed.
* Brushing should occur at least 2 times a day, perferably 3 times per day, after meals/ before bed.
* We should spend at least 2 minutes brushing teeth each instance, spending equal time on all tooth surfaces.
* We should begin flossing our children's teeth as soon as they have 2 teeth that touch. (Yeah, I've gotta admit, I'm not the best at this one, here! But the individual flossers make a huge difference!)
* We should also brush gums, the roof of the mouth, and the tongue. (At our house, we call this, brushing "the pinks".)
* Brushing should be in a circular motion (if not using a specialized toothbrush, like Sonicare).
* The brush should be held at a 45 degree angle when brushing.

This post is my contribution to the conversation. Below is a task analysis and some suggestions for teaching your children to brush their teeth. For a reminder on how to teach steps in a task analysis, see the post I wrote here.

* Use full physical prompts when initially teaching your child to brush his/her teeth. Have him/her hold the toothbrush with the appropriate grip (probably the way you hold your toothbrush). Then place your hand over his/hers in the same position.
* Remember, make the task fun or at least appealing. Chances are, at bedtime you are stopping preferred activities such as playtime, movies, games, books, etc. to start the bedtime routine. Very few children are going to be excited for that! Use the Premack Principle (great article here), otherwise known as "Grandma's rule". Set up the schedule so the (probable) non-preferred or "less" preferred thing (toothbrushing) is followed by a preferred thing (bedtime stories, singing time, throwing a full water balloon in the tub, drawing pictures on the mirror with dry erase markers, etc.).

Task Analysis
1. Get toothbrush and toothpaste.
2. Open toothpaste.
3. Hold toothbrush in non-dominant hand. Put pea-sized amount (for young children) of toothpaste on tooth brush.
4. Put toothbrush down.
5. Close toothpaste and put it away.
6. Pick up toothbrush with dominant hand.
7. Turn on water (low).
8. Wet toothbrush.
9. Turn water off.
10. Using circular motions, brush top-front teeth (making sure to also brush gums) for 10 seconds. You can even count aloud. (In our house, we call brushing the front and side surfaces of the tops and bottom teeth "doing the eeee's".)

11. Using circular motions, brush top-right side teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds. Again, feel free to count!

12. Using circular motions, brush top-left side teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds. 

13. Brush top-left INSIDE teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds. (In our house, we call brushing all of the inside surfaces of our teeth "doing the ah's".)
14. Brush top-front INSIDE teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.
15. Brush top-right INSIDE teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.

16. Spit into sink.
17. Using circular motions, brush bottom-front teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.
18. Using circular motions, brush bottom-right side teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.

19. Using circular motions, brush bottom-left side teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds. 
20. Brush bottom-left INSIDE teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds. 

21. Brush bottom-front (middle) INSIDE teeth (making sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.

22. Brush bottom-right INSIDE teeth (makin sure to brush gums) for 10 seconds.

23.  Spit into sink.
24. Fill cup with water and rinse out mouth (We call this the "swish and spit" step at our house.)
25. Rinse out tooth brush.
26. Turn water off.
27. Dry face.
28. Put tooth brush away.
29. Smile!

So at our house, when we're prompting our children to brush their teeth well, we tend to say, "Remember to do your ah's and eeee's and don't forget your pinks!"

Remember, you can add or take away steps as needed. Maybe your children don't need to be prompted to turn the water on/off or maybe they need an extra teaching step focusing on teaching them to hang the face towel back on the rack. When I wrote this post, I changed up the order of the steps at least 3 times. I'm not even sure that this is the order that my kids or I normally brush are teeth. :) Feel free to change the order to something that feels right for you. 

Now, since I started this post, my daughter (the one in the pics) has had a terrific report on her dental hygiene from our dentist. I take my other 2 children in for their 6-month check-ups tomorrow. I hope their report adds to my credibility!

**I get that the toothbrush my daughter is holding may seem too big for her. Normally we use an Oral-B electric toothbrush. However, she had just been to the dentist and this is the toothbrush they gave her. She was obsessed with using "the new one."

What do you think?  How do you teach your children how to brush their teeth?  What have you struggled with? Have you come across fantastic ideas that have helped you out in the past? Please share in the comments section!