As children get older, they can start taking care of their teeth on their own. Parents can help by encouraging them to starting brushing and flossing on their own. Continue to check their teeth and help clean any areas they may have missed. Follow the suggestions below for children older than 3 years.
For younger children, refer to the section on Dental Care for Infants and Toddlers.
Brushing Tips for Children (Ages 3-10)
Brush your child’s teeth the same way you brush your own.
Choose a fluoridated toothpaste. Use only a small amount of toothpaste (about the size of a pea).
When the toothpaste is used up, there is no need to re-apply. More toothpaste is not needed.
Your child will need help with brushing until the age of 8 or 9. Young children may miss spots. Brush together to make sure all the teeth are cleaned. Here are some suggestions:
- Use a soft toothbrush.
Place the toothbrush where the teeth and gums meet.
Brush in short strokes down on the upper teeth and up on the lower teeth.
Work in a pattern: Brush the outside, the inside, then the chewing surfaces.
Don’t forget to brush the tongue.
"Two for two is what you do!"
Brushing for two minutes, twice a day is recommended. Use a two-minute 'egg timer' to keep track of time. Singing a song that lasts two minutes is helpful as well. Encourage children to take their time when brushing.
Click here to download a resource on How to Brush and Floss.
Caring for Toothbrushes
After brushing, rinse the toothbrush thoroughly with tap water and allow to air-dry. Store it standing upright. If brushes are stored near each other, do not let the heads touch.
Do not share toothbrushes or use someone else’s brush.
Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, when the bristles look worn and bent, and especially after a cold or illness.
How to Floss your Child's Teeth
Floss every day. Make a habit of flossing your own teeth daily. Flossing before bedtime is best. Help your child to floss until they are able to floss without leaving any plaque (usually around the age of 8 or 9). If flossing is difficult, use floss picks or floss holders to help.
- Use an arm’s length of floss.
- Wind the floss around your middle fingers.
- Using the thumb and index finger, gently ease the floss between two teeth.
- Once through, wrap the floss around the tooth forming a ‘C’ shape.
- Gently slide the floss up and down, cleaning along the tooth and under the gum line.
- Move from one tooth to the next using a clean section of floss.
- Don’t forget to floss the back of the last tooth.
Suggestions to Help with Brushing and Flossing Difficulties
Your child may resist your attempts to clean his/her teeth and insist that it can be done alone. Allow your child to brush his/her own teeth first, then take your turn to clean missed spots.
Younger children may chew the toothbrush, which will remove some plaque, but this is not enough. Thorough brushing still needs to be done afterward.
If your child clenches his/her lips and will not open, try to gently squeeze the cheeks until you can put the toothbrush inside his/her mouth.
If your child resists your attempts to brush his/her teeth, try wiping the teeth with a clean face cloth during the bedtime bath. This can be just as effective as using a toothbrush.
Try to make brushing and flossing a positive experience for your child. Try letting your child brush your teeth first and then you brush his/hers. Singing a song may also help.
Dental Sealants for Children
Dental sealants are plastic coatings that are applied to the chewing surface of the back teeth. They are quick and easy to apply.
Sealants make teeth easier to clean. They help protect teeth from decay, along with proper brushing, flossing, eating healthy foods and regular dental visits.
Sealants are applied by your dental provider.
To find out if your child qualifies for our dental programs, read more about the CINOT program or the Healthy Smiles Ontario Program.
Or call our Dental Clinic: at (807) 625-5984 or toll-free at 1-888-294-6630 x 5984
Eating healthy foods is a big part of having good oral health. Families can build healthy dental habits by encouraging healthy snacking and making healthy food choices. Here are some tooth-friendly tips:
Offer fruits and vegetables as a snack instead of those with refined sugars.
Serve cheese with lunch or as a snack, especially cheddar, which helps to trigger the flow of saliva. Saliva helps to wash food particles away from teeth.
Avoid sticky, chewy foods which stick to the teeth, such as raisins, granola bars, jelly beans, and syrup. Sticky foods make it difficult for saliva to wash the sugar away. If your children eat these foods, make sure they brush immediately after eating.
Limit the number of snacks in a day. It is extremely important to give the mouth some ‘time off’. Time between meals allows saliva to wash away food particles that bacteria would otherwise feast on.
Include good sources of calcium, such as milk, broccoli and yogurt, to build strong teeth.
Go to the Healthy Living section to learn more about Healthy Eating for Kids.
Click here for a factsheet to learn more about healthy snacking at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care website.