THESE DAYS, THERE are so many toothbrushes to choose from that it’s hard to find the right one for ourselves, let alone our kids. It’s not as simple as just picking one, because not all children’s toothbrushes are created equal. Let’s go over a few of the factors to consider when searching for the perfect toothbrush for your child.
Our top goal as dentists who work with young patients is to provide better dental care for families, which includes knowing which toothbrushes will be most helpful for children who are learning how to take care of their own teeth. Here’s a handy guide that can help you navigate the toothbrush aisle the next time you need to replace a toothbrush (which should be every few months — certainly by the time the bristles look bent).
The first big question you might be asking is whether to get a manual toothbrush or an electric one for your child. While both types of toothbrushes have the same capacity to clean teeth, with recent studies showing that electric toothbrushes remove as much plaque as manual toothbrushes, electric toothbrushes might be the better choice for some kids.
A child with a tendency to brush too hard, who has limited dexterity, who needs help getting to their molars, or who has special needs and difficulties may be more effective brushing with an electric toothbrush. If your child is great at brushing and wouldn’t benefit in this way, a manual toothbrush will be just great for them!
A good way to narrow down the pool of toothbrushes to choose from is to only look for toothbrushes with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. The Seal is awarded to toothbrushes every year by the ADA’s Council on Scientific Affairs, supported by a team of more than 750 leading scientists in fields like microbiology, pharmacology, toxicology, and chemistry. You know you can trust an ADA-approved toothbrush!
This one might seem a little counterintuitive. We tend to think that firm bristles mean more effective scrubbing. However, we’re not trying to scrub out tile grout when we clean our teeth; teeth and gum tissue can be damaged by overbrushing, particularly with hard bristles. This is why we recommend soft-bristled brushes to our patients, especially for young children. Soft bristles are better for gums but still effective against plaque and food debris.
It’s important to find a toothbrush that fits your child’s hand and mouth. They won’t be able to brush effectively with something too big, so make sure it’s a child-sized brush. A non-slip grip might also be a good idea if they have a tendency to drop their toothbrush.
If you’d like our recommendations for great toothbrushes, we are happy to give them, but don’t forget to ask your child which toothbrush they like too! Once you’ve narrowed the options down to a few that meet all the requirements you’re looking for, let them choose their favorite color or cartoon character. They’re more likely to brush with a toothbrush they like!