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8 Dental Clues Your Child Isn’t Brushing

If you have children, you know that getting them to do what’s good for themselves — like brushing and flossing their teeth — isn’t always easy. But as your little ones become independent brushers, you’ll need to make sure they’re doing a decent job taking care of their pearly whites.

While you might not be able to hover over your school age child the way you did when he or she was younger, you can still use your super sleuthing skills to sniff out potential signs of bad brushing. (Note: Your child may not be the only culprit in your house. Don’t be afraid to put your spouse’s brushing to the test, too!) Here are eight clues your child might be cutting corners with — or completely skipping out on — one of the most important oral hygiene activities of the day:

The Clues to Look For

  1. Your child doesn’t spend much time brushing.

Just like adults, kids should be brushing twice a day for at least 2 minutes at a time. Most kids think they brush long enough but probably do so for less than a minute. If your child brushes for less than the length of a song, it’s not long enough.

  1. The toothbrush is dry after your child finishes brushing.

It’s tough to keep the toothbrush dry if you’re actually brushing! Ask your child to bring you the toothbrush or check it on your own. Be sure to do so before the toothbrush has had a chance to air dry.

  1. You can see food particles on or in between your child’s teeth.

After your child has brushed, ask for a smile. If you can still see bits of food on or in between your child’s teeth, send your child back to the bathroom for a brushing do-over.

  1. Your child’s teeth can’t pass the “squeak test.”

Have your child wet his or her finger and rub it quickly across the outside and inside of his or her teeth. If the teeth are clean, you will hear a squeaking sound.

  1. Your child’s tongue is white.

Proper brushing includes brushing the tongue. A clean tongue appears pink. A white tongue means there is still bacteria lurking on it.

  1. The dental floss never seems to run out.

Your child should floss once a day. To see if that’s actually happening, check the bathroom trash for used floss. Or buy your own floss at the same time as you buy your child’s. When yours runs out, your child’s should be nearly gone, too. If not, it could mean your child isn’t using floss — or isn’t flossing daily.

  1. Your child’s breath is anything but fresh.

If your child is brushing and flossing regularly, his or her breath should be pleasant. The foul odor associated with bad breath is most often caused by food particles — either food left in between teeth or food trapped in the grooves on the tongue.

  1. Your child has a cavity.

Even if you can’t tell if your child is brushing well, a dentist or pediatric dentist can spot any signs of trouble. This may include dental problems such as cavities or gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. In these cases, a tooth filling or gum disease treatment may be necessary to restore your child’s smile.

Regular dental visits are a great opportunity for a professional teeth cleaning to remove dental plaque and tartar. Plus, a great dentist can help reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene with your child.

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