What to Look for in an Electric Toothbrush for Kids

Because those sugar bugs won’t go away by themselves

An electric toothbrush can bring brushing to the next level for little kids. The bristles move for them, a small size can reach tricky back-of-the-mouth spots, and a timer can ensure they brush for as long as needed. That said, an electric toothbrush can require some practice for little ones. Supervising them while they brush and occasionally stepping in can be key. It can also be helpful to ask the dentist for any tricks, too, since they can spot areas where your little one may still need improvement. And of course, the best brush is the one they’ll actually use. So if you’ve gotta employ the help of Rubble and Skye, get them on board.

Musical alerts indicate when it’s time to move quadrants; integrated software that connects to a phone offers brushing rewards. Philips Sonicare

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Brushing teeth can be a battleground for kids and parents. An evening brush session can come at the end of a long day when everyone’s tired and cranky, and a morning brush session can be rushed and stressful. That’s where gamification comes into play. Gamification is a psychological technique that makes the mundane fun. For teeth brushing, this can be rewards—either ones you give or ones offered in an integrated app. Some toothbrushes have an included app that reward kids with virtual prizes for brushing, like virtual stickers, and have included games to educate kids on the importance of teeth brushing. But it’s also nice to use toothbrush time as a time to bond. Even if a kid has the mechanics down, sitting down with them while playing a favorite song can ensure no spots are missed and can help them with parts that are easy to overlook, like back molars.

Thumb grip and rounded handle for comfortable grip, tongue cleaner for thorough cleaning. Colgate

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Battery-powered bristle heads are great to pack along on a trip. You can also encourage a child to bring one along in his backpack. While it’s unlikely he will use it every day (even though he should) teach that it’s a good idea to regularly brush on the go, especially after you’ve had lunch or a sugary snack. Toothbrush heads should regularly be swapped out on electronic models—you’ll need to toss a battery-operated toothbrush after two or three months, or whenever the bristles begin to look discolored or out of place.

Ergonomic handle and design that’s friendly for little ones, with bristles designed to clean gently. Oral-B

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Pay attention to the ages recommended on the package, since brushes are designed with that size mouth and teeth in mind. It’s also important to frequently brush up—pun intended—on the specifics or brushing. Kids can get lazy and forget to do the back molars when they’re in a hurry, or they may be especially skittish about brushing when they have a loose tooth. In these cases, it’s okay to take over brushing for a bit, until your child feels confident enough to get back on the job.