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Which Toothbrush Is Right for Your Child?

By Dr. Nicole Stoker
From Reno Moms Blog

The market is flooded with different toothbrushes, so as a parent, how do we know which one is best for our child? Each toothbrush out there claims to clean better than the rest.

Manual toothbrushes are the most popular type of toothbrush for children because they are reliable, and come in many colors, shapes and designs that many kids find appealing. My kids love when I bring them home a toothbrush with their favorite character on it. Manual toothbrushes also come in many sizes and therefore, you can find the brush appropriately sized for your child. The box will have an age range, and it is important to use the correct size for your child’s age as it will allow you to move the brush around their mouth more effectively. When picking out a toothbrush, it is important to always choose one with soft bristles. Soft bristles are flexible and can clean around all surfaces of the teeth better. They also are more gentle on the gums and surrounding soft tissue. Manual toothbrushes are much more affordable than an electric toothbrush. They, however, require dexterity. A child must be able to move the bristles in a circular motion, angled towards the gums to remove plaque effectively.

Electric toothbrushes can be a great tool for children ages 7 or 8 and up, as they are starting to learn to brush on their own. As an aside, children should be assisted with brushing until they are able to tie their own shoes. Most electric toothbrushes also feature a timer which can help ensure children brush for the recommended two minutes per session. The timer usually will break the session into four beeps which is to signal when to move to the next quadrant of the mouth. Additionally, many have pressure sensors that help kids limit how hard they are brushing to prevent damaging their gums. Electric toothbrushes also come with age ranges. For example, the Philips Sonicare for kids comes with the smaller head size and stickers to decorate your brush. The newest model can also connect to Bluetooth with free apps that reward children for brushing well. Younger children can use an electric toothbrush if the toothbrush head is the appropriate size, but we cannot assume the brush is doing all the work for them. They will still need assistance. Some children find an electric toothbrush to be overwhelming with all of the vibrations. However, many of the toothbrushes have an option where you can adjust the movement of the bristles. Electric toothbrushes can be very helpful for children or adults with special needs. An electric toothbrush is also very helpful for cleaning around braces.

So which is best? A recent research article gave electric toothbrushes the slight edge in their ability to remove plaque and therefore prevent cavities and gingivitis. However, you can see there are pros and cons to each. A manual toothbrush, when used properly, can most definitely remove plaque. “When used properly” is the key phrase. An electric toothbrush can help move the bristles in the correct motion and remove that obstacle; then the child only needs to focus on getting the brush to the right places in the mouth. The best toothbrush is the one that the child will use. If a manual Elsa and Anna toothbrush is the chosen brush or an oscillating electric toothbrush just make sure your child is brushing twice a day for two minutes using a fluoridated toothpaste. Any toothbrush you chose should carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance, which ensures the brush has been tested by a team of oral healthcare experts.

Dr. Stoker is a pediatric dentist for The Smile Shop and is a mother of two.