How Long Should Children Brush Their Teeth?

Considering that most young adults spend less than 35 seconds brushing their teeth, kids, if left to their own devices, would spend 0 to 10 seconds brushing. Children and adults should spend 2 minutes brushing their teeth twice a day followed by flossing.

There are some who say you should brush for 4 minutes at least 3 times a day but I believe that is unrealistic. The general consensus is 2 minutes at least twice a day. When you actually spend 2 minutes brushing your teeth you’ll be amazed at how slowly time passes. Now imagine what it’s like for your kids!

But Mom, Why Do I have to Brush My Teeth? I Brushed Them Yesterday!

Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. 28% of pre-school children have experienced tooth decay and the percentages rise dramatically in older children. The good news is that is preventable!

Plaque is a bacterial film that clings to the surface of teeth and, when exposed to sugar, produces acid that erodes tooth enamel and causes cavities. To show your kids how much plaque is on their teeth have them chew a disclosing tablet (available from drug stores or online). Disclosing tablets contain a harmless vegetable dye that will turn plaque red.

Why Kids Need to Brush Their Teeth for 2 Minutes

A tooth has 5 surfaces: front, back, bottom, and 2 sides. A toothbrush will only clean 3 of the 5 surfaces: front, back, and bottom. Floss cleans the 2 remaining sides.

Proper brushing and flossing effectively remove plaque. To do a good job it should take children at least 2 minutes to brush their 20 baby or primary teeth. If it takes 120 seconds to clean 60 surfaces (20 teeth x 3 sides) that’s only 2 seconds per surface!

How to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth for 2 Minutes

Ideally, you should clean your baby’s mouth after every feeding. This makes it much easier to establish good dental hygiene habits. But if your child is fussing about brushing, here are some tips:

  • Let your child choose his/her toothbrush as long as it’s the proper size, small and soft-bristled
  • Children’s toothpaste comes in flavors that are more appealing to kids, find one they like. Same with floss
  • Encourage toddlers to take some responsibility and “help” brush, but always with supervision (until they’re at least 6 years old)
  • Have your child hold a mirror while you brush their teeth so he/she can see what is being done
  • Allow your child to brush your teeth. Laugh a lot and make it a fun activity. Then brush theirs
  • Have your child brush their favorite doll’s teeth before you brush his/her teeth
  • Make tooth brushing appear to be a fun activity your child is missing out on. Go to the bathroom eager to brush and floss, laughing and making a lot of noise. Soon your child will realize they are missing out on something fun and will want to join in
  • The most important thing is to set a good example