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Getting your kids to brush and floss properly

February 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Kids should brush their teeth at least twice a day and floss once at night. But how many children and teens actually do this regularly? Not very many.

It's National Children's Dental Health Month and one local dentist offers some creative solutions.

Kids should start flossing as soon as their teeth start to grow in and make contact.

"Once you see no gap, then I encourage flossing and that can be as early as 2 years old, some kids a little bit younger, some kids a little older," said pediatric dentist Dr. Natalie Mansour.

Mansour says floss picks are easier for kids to use.

"Make sure that you know to wiggle back and forth and kind of go in and out of every single tooth all the way until you get to the other side," said Mansour.

A similar routine for brushing: Line up your brush lengthwise and move in a circular motion across the front, inside and tops of your teeth for two minutes. Mansour says timers and blinking brushes make it fun for kids.

Until your child learns how to spit, which is usually around age 3, doctors recommend using a safe-to-swallow fluoride-free toothpaste to prevent fluoride toxicity. After that, your child can use any toothpaste they want.

If your child doesn't respond well to timers, Monsour says don't worry: There's a smartphone app for that.

"Some kids are really into apps on their iPhones," said Monsour. "They have two-minute timers. You can earn points for brushing for two minutes."

Mansour says showing kids approaching their teen years what can happen if they don't floss is a great motivator.

To prevent cavities, Mansour recommends only serving milk and juice with meals. Let kids drink water the rest of the day. And cut down on the chronic all-day snacking. The more kids munch, the more acids they build on their teeth.