To say that I’m swayed by advertising is grossly underestimating my love of a solid tag line that becomes ubiquitous with a company. If I couldn’t be a dentist and then subsequently couldn’t be an accountant I would love to have the job of thinking up advertising campaigns.

Just do it? Sure, if by doing it is almost passing out while trying to get back into running. Done. Check.

Chevy trucks, like a rock. They sure are, I rear ended one in dental school.

Got milk? Yep, spilled all over my floor from my kids.

Five dollar, five dollar, five dollar footlooonnng! Can anyone read that without actually singing that song in your head?

However, more recently I have fallen completely head over heels in love with Walgreen’s new approach to constantly being “At the Corner of Happy and Healthy”. (Side note: interesting, too, because I’m pretty sure you can buy some things at Walgreens that don’t necessary fall under that umbrella and I wonder if the cashier laughs in their head when they say, “Be well!” to someone who has just finished a transaction for those said items. Anyway, I’m off topic.)

“At the corner of happy and healthy” got me thinking what I would want the parents of my patients to have running through their head when they were trying to:

brush their 2 year old’s teeth who REALLY doesn’t want to have their teeth brushed or, who are trying to help their five year brush whom has decided that they want to be more independent and doesn’t need their parents to check AT ALL or, reminding their teenager for the umpeetheth time that they have to brush their teeth and not just their front ones. And I think I’ve got it.

It doesn’t have to be perfect just make it consistent.

I know you are thinking, “but aren’t we supposed to brush twice a day for two minutes each time in the modified bass technique holding the toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and then follow with floss you place in between each contact of our teeth and create a ‘C’ shape with the floss to clean each individual surface?

And the answer is why yes, yes your children should be brushing like that……in the city called Utopia.

When you talk about developing good oral health habits I feel your main focus should be on consistency to build life long habits. Let me give you an idea of how to approach implementing oral hygiene in whatever stage your child might be in.

AGES 0-2

For the parents whom have babies, with brand new teeth, simply wiping their teeth off with a washcloth after their last feeding at night is a good start. You absolutely can start out using an infant toothbrush if you have one, they are sized appropriately for their mouth so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. If all you have right now is a washcloth that works for me especially if the child only has their front teeth in. After the eruption of their first molars (somewhere shortly after 12 months or so) it might be difficult to get back there with just a washcloth so I recommend that by that time you start to use the infant toothbrush.

Here is where it might get a little controversial…….

The American Dental Association, as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, has recently changed their recommendation to beginning to use fluoridated toothpaste at the eruption of the first tooth. The recommended dose is no more than a grain of rice or enough to cover 2-3 bristles. When you give a blanket recommendation such as this you are able to include those children that have a real need for early exposure to topical fluoride (which provides the most benefit). These kids include those who have a high likelihood of getting a cavity including those who go to bed with a bottle that contains something other than water, have developmentally hypoplastic (poorly formed) enamel, or who have or have had cavities (and yes, unfortunately there are instances where I have seen decay as young as 12 months). These children will really benefit from the fluoride exposure.

However………I also think………

For other children whom their parents take an active interest in their oral care, monitor their diet and sugar intake, and have regular dental appointments my preference is for children that have yet begun to master the art of spitting to use a training toothpaste. This is a topic best discussed with your dental provider to decide when the appropriate time for you to implement a fluoridated toothpaste for your child.

AGES 3-6

Around 3-6 years old your child may want to be more independent with their brushing. Get ready for toothpaste ALL OVER YOUR MIRRRORS. This is an important step for them learning to take care of their own teeth. Let them brush for as long as they want to. 10 seconds? Great!! 1 minute? Hallelujah!! The important part is that you the parent goes back and hits the areas that were likely missed. These include behind the back molars and around the gum line. We stress a 2-minute brush to allow the fluoride to kill the bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. But listen, I have a 3 year old. Two minutes might as well be 20 minutes. That’s were the “It doesn’t have to be perfect just make it consistent.” comes into play. Tooth brushing each day is WAAYYYYY more important to me than doing it perfect each and every time. You work on it and when your child comes in for dental visits we give you feedback on spots that might need a little more attention.

AGES 7-10

Most kids by this point are doing really well but around 7 or so this is where the ‘brushers’ and the ‘non-brushers’ really become apparent. For the parents that are struggling with their children, It doesn’t have to be perfect just make it consistent. ” Except what does that mean at this age? You aren’t doing it for them, and they feel like you are babying them when you do a thorough tooth check with a toothbrush. My favorite suggestion is a mouth rinse called Agent Cool Blue. Back in the day when you and I were young we used what was called disclosing tablets which we put in our mouth to dissolve and then stained our whole mouth. Agent Cool Blue is very similar. I suggest having your child swish with the mouth rinse before they brush and have them show you their blue teeth. If their teeth are blue then the only way to get them back white is to brush everything off. What I like most about this is the blue is such a strong visual cue for both them and you it takes a lot of guess work about whether all the plaque is gone or not.


Once we are in this age range and the oral hygiene habits are not in place for your child we will begin to have really serious talks about tooth brushing with your child. This is the point where typically most baby teeth are gone and it’s the real deal adult teeth that are there. I am not going to lay out a game plan here because at this age it is very customized to your child and it is so important as your child’s dentist, I work with them individually to figure out an approach that is workable, and most important maintainable for them.

I feel like good groundwork has been made so let’s chat later about flossing (I LOVE flossing) and other adjunct oral care products that improve oral health later. See you at the office!

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