Kids should brush teeth for two minutes, twice daily

A new public-service campaign “Kids’ Healthy Mouths” urges kids to brush their teeth for that amount of time, twice a day. Launched on Tuesday, the campaign’s TV spots, print ads, Web site, social media messages and other materials (available in both English and Spanish) point out that kids waste a lot of time every day watching television and videos, playing games on mobile devices and harassing their siblings — and that four minutes of that time could be better spent cleaning their teeth.

The 2min2x campaign was created by the Ad Council for The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives, a coalition of nearly three dozen dental health organizations, including the American Dental Association.

The effort’s founded on the alarming information that “Dental decay is the most common chronic childhood disease,” with more than 16 million kids in the United States suffering from untreated decay. The Web site blurb continues, “The mouth is the gateway to a person’s overall health, and an unhealthy mouth can be linked to diabetes and even heart disease. In the U.S., oral disease causes kids to miss 51 million school hours and their parents to lose 25 million work hours annually. Additionally, oral disease disproportionately affects children from low-income families and these children have almost twice the number of decayed teeth that have not been treated by a dentist as compared to others in the general population.”

Many of those problems could be remedied if kids brushed more frequently, the campaign suggests. But according to a survey conducted in association with the campaign, only 44 percent of children brush twice a day — and 31 percent of parents report that their kids argue with them at least once a week over being made to brush.

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To make brushing teeth more appealing — and to help parents and kids meet that two-minute mark — the campaign has set up a YouTube video channel featuring fun (well, fun for kids, I suppose; they didn’t do much for me) videos, each 120 seconds long. The idea is to play the video while you brush. (The logistics are up to you, but I suppose the best way would be to access the videos with your smart phone and bring it into the bathroom.)

Let me tell you, two minutes is a looooong time.

So where’d that magic number come from, anyway? Maria Lopez Howell, consumer adviser for the American Dental Association, says research has shown that two minutes, twice daily is the “optimal prevention brushing regimen.” She says folks who use automated toothbrushes are already accustomed to brushing that long because such devices generally have built-in timers.

“It takes two minutes for the tooth enamel to uptake the fluoride” in toothpaste, Howell explains. The two-minute brush has two-fold effects, she adds. In addition to allowing time for fluoride to work, “There’s the physical massage of the tooth surfaces that removes the plaque and makes a clean surface” for the fluoride to do its job. When the enamel absorbs fluoride, she says, it makes the tooth surface harder and more resistant to the bacteria-produced acids that cause tooth decay.

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Brush 2min2x

 Help your kids brush their teeth 2min2x – 2 minutes each time, 2 times a day – for healthier teeth, good breath, fewer cavities, and to avoid painful dental problems. The Partnership for Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives recommends that you help or watch over your kids’ brushing until they’re 8. Children 2 or older should always use a fluoride toothpaste.

Teach Kids How to Brush

The Right Toothbrush

Kids should use a soft toothbrush.  The size and shape of the brush should allow them to reach all areas of their mouth.

Replace toothbrushes every 3-4 months, sooner if the bristles are worn out or if your children have been sick.

Attack Plaque!

Plaque is a sticky film of germs that forms on teeth and gums after eating. Plaque that’s not removed by brushing twice a day and flossing once a day can lead to cavities.

Tooth To-Dos

  • Encourage your kids to brush with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use a pea-sized dab of fluoride toothpaste for kids ages 2-6, and use slightly more when they’re older.
  • Teach them to spit out the toothpaste when they’re done so they don’t swallow it.
  • For kids under age 2, just use a soft toothbrush and a little water; no toothpaste is necessary.
  • Help your kids place the toothbrush at an angle against their gums.
  • Make sure they move the brush back and forth, gently, in short strokes.
  • Help them brush the front, back, and top of teeth.
  • Teach them to brush their tongue to remove germs and freshen breath.

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