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Making Oral Health a Priority Pays Dividends for Kids’ Total Health

Establishing healthy oral hygiene habits early in life is key for more than just safeguarding little ones’ smiles. Dental health impacts their overall growth and development, creating a path for long-term well-being.

Protecting teeth means protecting whole body health and happiness, as dental issues can disrupt sleep, nutrition, learning, and play at key ages.

With the fundamentals in place, like a balanced, nutrient-rich diet centered on whole foods, consistent brushing and flossing with the right technique, and regular dental visits, children gain confidence along with brighter, healthier smiles.

Setting them on a positive course now improves their quality of life far into the future. So making oral health a priority pays dividends for kids’ overall health. 

Choosing the Right Oral Hygiene Tools

One question that patients often ask is whether one type of toothbrush is better than another, manual or electric. Actually, as long as it’s soft bristled, the best brush is the one that you use regularly, although research suggests that powered brushes may be the best option.

In fact, a review just published in the International Dental Journal found that oscillating/rotating toothbrushes did a better job of removing plaque and improving gingival (gum) health than either manual or sonic brushes. The authors suggest that the brush head design may have something to do with it.

[Oscillating/rotating] brushes have a small, round head…which contours to the shape of each tooth. Manual toothbrushes typically have a large, rectangular shape, and sonic toothbrushes have preserved a more traditional head shape.

But does the same thing hold true for kids? Is one kind of toothbrush better than another for the little ones? A recent study aimed to find out.

Which Type of Toothbrush Is Best for Kids? 

Published last fall in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry, the study followed two groups of children. One group included kids who were not yet brushing on their own; their parents brushed their teeth for them. The other was made up of older kids (aged 7 to 10) who brushed on their own.

The kids’ plaque and gingival (gum) health scores were taken at the start of the study and after four weeks of using the toothbrush they were randomly assigned. Some kids brushed with an Oral-B oscillating/rotating brush. Some used a child-sized manual brush.

Both types of toothbrushes significantly reduced plaque and gum inflammation. The oscillating/rotating brushes, however, were more effective. Among the younger kids, the power brushes removed 55.7% more plaque overall and 34.3% more plaque from the back teeth than manual brushes.

Among the older kids, they removed 94.5% more plaque overall and 108.4% more plaque from the back teeth than manual brushes. The power brushes also reduced gum inflammation 14.1% more overall and 18.8% more in the back teeth.
(That area can be especially hard to clean well for people of any age!)

Given the prevalence of caries and gingivitis [tooth decay and gum disease] in young children, the impact of early plaque on future oral health and the dearth of published studies of long-term O–R [oscillating/rotating] toothbrush use in young children, the current study offers a unique and clinically relevant insight into the efficacy of O–R toothbrushes with respect to the reduction in plaque and gingivitis in children with primary dentition as well as in children with mixed dentition.

The analysis of 3- to 10-year-old children showed that the reduction in both plaque and gingivitis was significantly more among O–R brush users than among manual brush users. This was true for both the whole mouth and the posterior teeth.

So Should I Get an Electric Toothbrush for My Kid?

So does all this mean you should rush out and get an oscillating/rotating brush for your child? If they show interest, an electric toothbrush can be an excellent option. Not all kids like them, though. The buzzing and vibration can seem “too much,” even a little intimidating.

Which brings us full circle: Ultimately, the best brush is the one that you use regularly. With any healthy habit, really, consistency is crucial.