Parents usually just have to try, and then try again, to figure out the best way to get their children to brush their teeth. The most important thing, though, is consistency and brushing them at least once a day. That alone dramatically reduces the risk of cavities.
Good dental hygiene begins before the baby even has a tooth. Parents can start regularly massaging the baby''s maxillary crest with soft tooth brushes, a nubs brush or their finger.
"That makes teething easier," said Johanna Kant, chairwoman of the German Association of Paediatric Dentists.
As soon as the baby can begin grasping objects, it can hold its own toothbrush and play with it. If parents begin with dental care early, they avoid their children fighting back against brushing, according to Andrea Thumeyer, chairwoman of the Hessen State Workgroup on Youth Dental Care.
Once the first baby tooth breaks through, the actual cleaning begins. Parents should lay their child on the changing table so their head is well supported or hold the baby in their lap.
"Pull their lips slightly to the side, put the brush on the tooth and brush it lightly back and forth," said Kant.
Fluoride is an effective protection against cavities.
"Fluoride protects the enamel from acids," said Dietmar Oesterreich, vice president of the German Dental Association.
Paediatricians recommend parents that give their children tablets with 0.25 milligrams of fluoride from their birth until three years of age. Parents should also brush their children''s teeth - albeit without toothpaste, as too much fluoride can hinder the growth of permanent teeth, according to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).
Dentists know of the risks of so-called fluorosis. But as opposed to paediatricians, dentists recommend using toothpaste containing fluoride even for babies.
Parents should brush their children''s teeth from the time the first tooth appears until they turn two years once a day with a touch of toothpaste, which should contain 500 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride.
When children turn two, they can brush their teeth twice a day. A toothpaste with between 1,000 and 1,500 ppm of fluoride can be used when the children start school.
Parents often ask how to keep their children still with their mouth open. "My husband does jumping jacks while I brush the teeth," said Thumeyer. If the child still refuses, then there''s really only one option: holding the child and brushing the teeth.
When children turn two, they can then brush their teeth in the morning as well - at best after breakfast. But it''s better to wait if the child eats fruit.
"The acids can lead to the dissolving of materials from the tooth surfaces," said Oesterreich. It''s then possible that minerals can be brushed away before they penetrate the tooth.