Brushing & Flossing

Another frequently asked question we have is about brushing and flossing. When should we start brushing our child’s teeth? How long until they can brush unsupervised? When should we start flossing? What is the proper technique for brushing and flossing?  This blog will answer those questions and provide you with pictures and videos to help improve your knowledge in this area.


1) When should we start brushing our child’s teeth? Should we use toothpaste with fluoride?  The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends twice daily brushing with fluoridated toothpaste for all children, once the first tooth erupts.  Before the first tooth erupts, parents can use infant toothbrushes or washcloths to clean the child’s gingiva.  Once the teeth erupt, a smear or rice sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste is used for kids less than 3, and a pea sized for kids 3-6.  To maximize the beneficial effect of fluoride, rinsing after brushing should be kept to a minimum. No eating or drinking should occur after brushing before the child goes to bed.  For children we cannot yet spit, some parents have concern for potential swallowing of fluoride.  The amount of fluoride that could be ingested with a smear is minimal, and will have no harm on your child’s health, while the benefits of the fluoride on the teeth are immense!  If you do not feel comfortable with this, “Toddler” toothpaste with no fluoride is a good alternative to get your child used to the feeling of toothpaste.

Children should be directly supervised with a parent watching and helping brush properly until the child is around 8 years old.  The AAPD recommends twice daily brushing, for at least 2 minutes each time. 

2) What is the proper technique for brushing?  As shown below, the bristles of the toothbrush should brush the teeth and the gums, turning the gums white, referred to as “blanching.”  This will clean the teeth and remove the plaque and bacteria that lives under the gumline.

3) What if my child is uncooperative? 

Talk about positive reinforcement. If it’s cold, you put on a jacket.  Brushing is an essential part of our oral health and overall health, which we all want for our children. We cannot get lax, we need to establish good oral hygiene habits when they are young, so they continue throughout the child’s lifetime, keeping their teeth happy and healthy.

Shown below are some safe and efficient positions to help brush a child’s teeth who may not want to. It is important to be able to visualize the teeth and properly move the lip in order to brush those hard to reach places on a young child.


Flossing should occur when there are no spaces between teeth, and you cannot visualize in between the teeth. The photo below shows good spacing, so it would not be necessary to floss this child’s teeth.  There is still plaque that can live below the gums in between the teeth, but good brushing in these areas should remove this plaque.

This photo shows no spacing.

This photo shows no spacing.

this illustrates the best way to floss.

this illustrates the best way to floss.

1)     Use about 18 inches of floss

2)     Wrap each end of floss around your middle fingers, then being able to use your index fingers and thumbs for good control

3)     Slide gently between the contacts of two teeth. Creating a “C” shape to the floss, pull the floss against one of the teeth, and gently slide up and down below the gumline, holding the floss against one of the teeth. Repeat for the other tooth. 

4)     Repeat this for all the teeth that are contacting, using the “C” shape for each tooth, and gently sliding up and down below the gumline. You should not be hitting your gums excessively. If your gums bleed, it could indicate inflamed gums, which can heal over time of good hygiene.  Sometimes, bleeding when flossing could be caused my improper technique. Please contact us with any questions regarding proper brushing and flossing.

Thank you for reading today’s blog!  We hope this helps to improve your child’s oral health.  Please comment or send us a message with any further questions.