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When is an electric toothbrush appropriate for children?
By David Cruickshank
Electric toothbrushes are excellent for brushing your child’s teeth but you should wait until they at least 3 years of age before using them.
When is an electric toothbrush appropriate?
If your child is over 3 years of age an electric toothbrush is an excellent choice.
The results recent 11-year study has shown us that electric toothbrushes are more efficient at preventing oral health problems like gum disease than manual toothbrushes. Getting your child accustomed to an electric toothbrush in their early years can provide positive benefits that will last them a lifetime.
The ages and stages of toothbrushing
It is a parent’s responsibility to keep their children’s teeth healthy from the time the teeth first erupt until their child is fully independent and self-sufficient.
4 – 36 Months
Parents can clean erupting teeth with a smear of fluoride toothpaste on a soft-bristled baby toothbrush, a finger toothbrush or a specialist toothbrush like the Baby Banana® toothbrush. It is not generally recommended to use an electric toothbrush at this stage.
Children in this age group should never be left unattended with a toothbrush in their mouth.
Some children in this age group don’t cooperate well during teeth brushing sessions. This is a normal stage of development and is usually temporary. Rather than forcing the issue, it is best to try and create an atmosphere of fun by using fun toothbrushes, brushing charts and rewards. It can be very helpful if parents and older siblings all brush at the same time as this can provide useful motivation to a reluctant infant.
3 – 6 Years
Children in this age group are still very dependent on mum and dad for oral care. It is important that parents make sure that all surfaces of the teeth are cleaned. It is often easier to sit with the child between your knees with their head tilted gently backward.
It is a common misconception that secondary teeth only appear after a baby tooth has been lost but the first permanent molar can come through unnoticed as early as 5 years. It is vital that these teeth are cleaned thoroughly as soon as they appear.
This is a great age to introduce an electric toothbrush. There are a number of fun models available to get children excited about teeth brushing. Some electric toothbrushes connect with entertaining and educational Apps that can be hugely beneficial for establishing good oral health habits.
Children of these ages should not be allowed to run around or be left by themselves with a toothbrush in their mouths.
7 – 11 Years
It is generally advised that parents help and supervise teeth cleaning sessions until the children are at least 7 years old. As the children get older, supervision can gradually decrease but it is still important that parents maintain an active interest in everyday teeth brushing sessions. As more permanent teeth erupt it is vital that all surfaces of the teeth are cleaned thoroughly. If the child is using a manual toothbrush, their cleaning technique should be refined as their hand skills develop. The short scrub and bass techniques are both good brushing styles for children.
If they aren’t already using an electric toothbrush, this would be a great time to get them started. Electric toothbrushes are very effective at removing plaque and they are not reliant on a good brushing technique as the motorized cleaning head does all the work.
One of the biggest challenges for parents is to get their children to brush for a full 2 minutes. Electric toothbrushes with 2-minute timers are a great way to get kids accustomed to brushing for the proper amount of time.
Children in this group are very receptive to learning and this is a great time to involve them in choosing their own toothbrush and toothpaste.
Are kids electric toothbrushes safe?
Research has shown that electric toothbrushes are completely safe for both children and adults. Parents may be concerned that the extra power of an electric toothbrush might damage their child’s teeth enamel, but that is not the case. In fact, studies show that electric toothbrushes are more effective at preventing the buildup of plaque that causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Electric toothbrush Safety tips.
- Children under the age of 7 should be supervised during their teeth cleaning sessions.
- Although kids electric toothbrushes are designed to be fun to use, it should be made clear to children that they are not toys to be played with.
- Don’t let children run or play with a toothbrush in their mouth.
- The toothbrush charging unit should not be placed near water or allowed to get wet.
- Always replace the cleaning head after 3 months of use, or sooner if it is cracked or worn.
- Only use cleaning heads that are specifically designed for the appliance.
- It the toothbrush is being used with a mobile app, don’t charge the mobile device in the bathroom.
- Don’t share the same cleaning head.
Benefits of childrens electric toothbrushes
There is now a significant amount of credible research data to prove that electric toothbrushes are better than manual brushes at maintaining good oral health. If that is true that adults benefit from using a power toothbrush, then it is equally true for children, if not more so!
If you can get your child accustomed to using an electric toothbrush early you will give them a fighting chance of keeping their teeth intact for their lifetime. Removing dental plaque on a daily basis is the key to a healthy mouth and an electric toothbrush is the best tool for the job.
We have highlighted some of the more compelling reasons to get your child started with an electric toothbrush.
Electric toothbrushes are fun!
Kid’s electric toothbrushes usually come in bright colors with glossy stickers to make them more attractive to youngsters.
Oral B has a whole range of toothbrush models that feature popular Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters.
Electric toothbrushes have timers.
Dentists recommend that everyone should brush their teeth for a full 2 minutes twice a day. Research estimates that the average person only brushes for meager 45 seconds which leaves their teeth susceptible to a build-up of plaque.
Electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to prompt users to keep brushing for the full two minutes. Tests show that people who use an electric toothbrush do, indeed brush for longer.
A toothbrush with a timer is an excellent way to get your child accustomed to brushing their teeth for the right amount of time.
Electric toothbrushes have interactive Apps.
Manufacturers like Oral B, Sonicare, and Colgate all have a toothbrushing app to use with their toothbrushes. These interactive apps are excellent entertainment and educational tools that can really get kids excited to brush their teeth.
Electric toothbrushes are effective.
Electric toothbrushes have been available for a long time and many clinical studies have shown them to be as effective as any manual toothbrush. However, more recent studies are suggesting that an electric toothbrush is actually superior in terms of preventing gum disease and tooth loss.
Our Authors & Contributors
Long‐term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health: 11‐year cohort study
Pitchika V, Pink C, Völzke H, Welk A, Kocher T, Holtfreter B. Long-term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health: 11-year cohort study. J Clin Periodontol. 2019;46:713–722.
First published: 22 May 2019