The reputation that precedes electric toothbrushes is that they care for our teeth more thoroughly than is possible with an ordinary manual toothbrush. For more than three decades, the whirring and vibrating brushes with the interchangeable heads have been spreading in German bathrooms. More and more children are swapping their "normal" toothbrush for a Bluetooth-enabled electronic counterpart. But how sensible and healthy is it to give little ones electric toothbrushes when they are still in daycare? dr Thomas Breyer, practicing dentist and President of the State Dental Association of Saxony, emphasizes in an interview with stern that parents play the most important role in the first years of cleaning their children. Colorful electric toothbrushes and fun smartphone apps don't change that.
Dr. Breyer, there is at least one electric toothbrush in almost every German bathroom. Many smaller children now also use electricity to clean. What do you think of it in general?
Unfortunately, today's children tend to develop motor backwards rather than progressing. Our basic tenor is therefore that in the first few years of life they brush with a manual toothbrush to get a feeling for what is actually happening in their mouth. With four-year-olds or even younger children, there is otherwise a risk that they will put the toothbrush in their mouth and then primarily find it funny and the device will mumble a bit. The children quickly begin to dream, play in front of themselves and the cleaning effect is almost zero. According to the motto: once in the left, once in the right, done. To make matters worse, many parents also believe that the electric toothbrush will clean their teeth and that they themselves have nothing to do with the matter.
At what age are children able to brush their teeth consistently and on their own?
Until about the age of six, children are not able to brush all of their teeth properly. It doesn't matter which toothbrush you use. Until then, the parents have to clean up. Of course, this also works with electric toothbrushes. However, we think it makes sense to let children brush with a manual toothbrush until they are sufficiently motorized to reach every part of the mouth accordingly. For all we know, that's between the ages of five and seven. Then you can switch to the electric toothbrush.
That's the theory. What are your practical experiences from everyday life?
The reality of life for children is indeed different. Parents often clean with an electric toothbrush. This leads to the children wondering why this should be right for adults - but not for them. From our point of view, you have to find a compromise in the family. It doesn't really matter if it's a sonic toothbrush or one with an oscillating head if you opt for the electric version. They hardly differ in the cleaning effect. In our experience, sonic toothbrushes are a little ahead. Here the fluoride is better distributed in the interdental spaces. On the other hand, the models with oscillating heads are less abrasive. But as I said, the most important thing is to keep cleaning until the child is six years old.
What is the most important tip you give to parents when it comes to brushing their children's teeth?
Parents should quickly get rid of the belief that the electric toothbrush relieves them of the need to check and clean them afterwards. We observe that it is easier to dream with the electric brush than with the manual toothbrush. If you dream while brushing with the manual toothbrush, it just stops. The electric one continues to wobble, even when the child picks its nose. That is why checking and cleaning are so important.
Even children's versions of electric toothbrushes monitor the pressure when brushing. In your opinion, how useful is this function?
The pressure control makes sense. However, it is more for adults, because many of them break the necks of their teeth when cleaning their teeth. This is where the electric brush has a real advantage over the mechanical one. Especially after stressful days, there is a risk of ruining your teeth with manual toothbrushes. This prevents the pressure control with electric toothbrushes. Parents don't have to worry because children usually lack the strength to exert too much pressure.
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