TAMPA (FOX 13) - Five-year-old Jack McDonald says he tries to brush his teeth twice a day. "We do one time in the day, one time at night."
His father, Eric, says it isn’t always easy. "We have to struggle to get him in there, physically pick him up and he's clawing on to things, kicking and screaming if you will, but it’s a game."
Jack's pediatric dentist, Dr. Lesley Rudolph, says that game should start as soon as your baby has teeth.
"You only want to use a tiny smear on the toothbrush, about the size of one piece of rice. Just brush it on and leave it on the teeth," she said.
Until they can rinse and spit, you'll need to keep the amount of toothpaste to a minimum. "Once all the teeth are in, around age 3, you can increase the amount of toothpaste to around the size of a small pea," Rudolph continued.
She recommends brushing in the morning and after their last feeding. "No rinsing or spitting afterwards," she added. "You get the greatest benefit by the fluoride remaining in the teeth."
By age 6, kids can usually handle the toothbrush on their own, but you'll need to teach them tricks to keep them brushing for at least two minutes. A timer can be useful or singing songs in their heads.
Around age 8, they can usually floss on their own. Rudolph says picks make it easier for kids to floss. "Make sure you rinse them or wipe them off in between every single tooth otherwise you move the plaque out of one spot and move it to another."
She also advises parents to take their child to a dentist when they get their first tooth. It gives your child a chance to get established and get comfortable at the dentist. It also helps dentists catch problems early.
For Jack, it was a small cavity.
"He's got great teeth, but he has lots of space between them. We weren't flossing as regularly as we should have," explained his father.
Now there are no-drilling options, like a liquid placed on top of the tooth. "It's called Silver Diamine Fluoride and it has liquid silver in it. It is designed to help kill the bacteria that causes tooth decay," Rudolph said.
It is a no-needle way to make going to the dentist a more pleasant experience, something that isn't always the case at home.