Unless your dentist recommends otherwise, start using a toothpaste with fluoride on your child's teeth as soon as they come into the mouth. Fluoride helps to prevent cavities. For children who are younger than 3 years, use only a "smear" of toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice) on the bristles of the toothbrush. For children who are 3 to 6 years old, the amount of toothpaste can be increased to a pea-size amount.
Using too much toothpaste puts your child at risk of developing white or brown spots on the permanent teeth (called fluorosis). Until children are able to brush their own teeth correctly, it is important that they are supervised while brushing. Young children also should be encouraged to spit out any excess toothpaste to avoid accidental swallowing.
Replace toothbrushes about every four months, or when they begin to look worn and frayed. If a toothbrush wears out before three or four months have passed, you or your child may be brushing too hard.
Powered toothbrushes are fun and may remove more plaque than regular toothbrushes. That doesn't mean you should run out and buy one. Regular toothbrushes work just fine. However, powered toothbrushes do make brushing easier. They can be especially helpful for children who can't sit still long enough to properly brush their teeth with a regular toothbrush.
Fluoride mouth rinse coats teeth with fluoride, which helps to prevent cavities. You should check with your child's dentist or dental hygienist to determine if your child needs to use a fluoride mouth rinse. It is typically used once or twice a day by children who are at a high risk for cavities. Children as young as 7 years old can use a fluoride rinse, if they know how to spit out a liquid without swallowing it. You can test your child to see if he or she is ready. Give him or her a half-cup of water. Ask your child to put some of the water in his or her mouth, swish it around and spit it out into a second cup. If there is a half-cup of water in the second cup, your child probably can spit out the mouth rinse. You should still supervise your child to make sure the rinse does not get swallowed.
Floss is available in many different sizes, coatings, flavors and forms. If you have trouble using the floss wrapped around your fingers, you can purchase floss holders in most drugstores and grocery stores. Some floss holders come in bright colors and are made to appeal to children.
Floss your child's teeth once a day. Many people floss just before bedtime. But if another time is more convenient for you, do it then.
Move the floss up and down with light to firm pressure to skim off plaque from the tooth. Do not press so hard that you injure the gum.