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Good Hygiene: Why It's Important to Brush Your


Getting young children to brush their teeth may not be too hard. Getting them to do it in the right way is a different matter entirely. Good dental hygiene is important to good health for the whole body, not just the teeth and gums.

Help ensure that your child grows up to have healthy gums and a beautiful smile. Start early to teach your child the 5Ws and an H of brushing:

  • Who: Children aged 2 years old and up.

  • What: Brush teeth with a soft-bristled brush which dentists recommend that you change every 3 months. Use a fluoride toothpaste (fluoride makes teeth strong)—only a dot—and spit it out and rinse well. Do not swallow the toothpaste!

  • Why: Food causes a filmy, sticky substance called plaque to build up on teeth. If it is not removed, the germs (bacteria) in the plaque eat away at the teeth, causing cavities or holes in the teeth. Plaque also makes the gums sore and unable to hold the teeth in place.

  • When: In the morning, before bedtime and, if possible, after lunch and after eating sweet snacks.

  • Where: You can brush (and floss) anywhere: at home, at a friend's house, in a restaurant.

  • How: Brush for at least 2 minutes each time, and don't forget to brush in back of each tooth, not just the front!

Let your children watch you brush your teeth, and then practice together. Use a clock or a timer to make sure both of you are getting in a full 2 minutes of brushing. Afterward, monitor how well they brush and that they are only using a small amount of toothpaste.


  • "Healthy Teeth" is produced by dentists for elementary aged kids curious about the "why?" of oral health, describing "what goes on inside your mouth."

  • "Brush Up on Healthy Teeth" from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) describes how to care for children’s teeth, beginning in their infancy.

  • "Taking Care of Your Teeth" from KidsHealth tells children how and why they should take care of their teeth.

  • "How to motivate kids to brush and floss regularly" suggests ways to encourage children to care for their teeth and gums effectively.

  • "Dudley and Friends" on the American Dental Association Web site has several very short fun videos about brushing, flossing and, in general, taking care of one's teeth.

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Updated on 3/21/2012