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Tooth Brushing Do's and Don'ts

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Do's And Don'ts

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  • Seek advice and guidance from local Dentists and Hygienists.

  • Inform parents of your intentions and seek their written consent.

  • Ask parents to provide their children with tooth brushing “kits”. Those kits should include toothbrushes, toothpaste and shallow plastic drinking cups. All items should have the names of individual children on them. The cups could be clean, used yoghurt tubs and are for rinsing after brushing.

  • Store each tooth brushing kit in an individual, sealable plastic container with the name of the child written clearly on the lid and on the side. A used margarine or ice cream tub will do. Ideally the tub should be shallow enough to be kept in child’s personal items drawer.

  • Organise children into small manageable groups and take turns at the wash basins.

  • Turn taps on and off for children.

  • When necessary, demonstrate cleaning your own teeth in front of children. Children love to copy and this is a good way of getting them started.

  • Let older children brush in the same groups as younger children. The younger children will copy the older ones.

  • Watch and check that children clean thoroughly - back teeth, front teeth, next to the tongue, next to the roof of the mouth and next to the cheeks. In other words - all around, inside and out.

  • If you physically assist children make sure that you wash your hands between each child. Better still wear a new pair of disposable rubber gloves between each child.

  • Ensure that tooth brushing kits are only used at times of tooth brushing.


  • Let children swap any items from their tooth brushing kits.

  • Let children suck or spit on taps.

  • Leave taps running during tooth brushing.

  • Physically assist children unless you are confident of your technique.

  • Let children walk or run around with tooth brushes in their mouths.

  • Make a game of it. Some health care authors recommend this for brushing at home but in the pre-school setting it could lead to chaos.

  • Expect too much of the younger children. As long as you make it a daily routine and you let them copy the older children you will probably be surprised at just how quickly they improve.

Some of this advice might seem complicated and tedious at first. But, like so many procedures, it is all a matter of getting organised.

Children respond well to routine. It gives them a sense of responsibility and discipline without being stern or harsh. Routine means knowing what follows next and that gives children a sense of comfort and security.

Some settings have expressed concerns over their own shortages of facilities, such as wash basins, for large numbers of children. To this I would say . . .

“Please, don’t give up . . .”

Organising lots of smaller groups of children will obviously take up more of your time but it will be worth the effort. You will be helping to protect them from a truly awful disease and you will make your setting more attractive to parents.

Kind regards,

Graham Wilding BDS.

January 2006.

Below are real examples of local nurseries efforts to change their routine according to the 'smile promises.' As you can see, a few changes can make all of the difference.