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We are brushing our (nearly) two-year-old's teeth with a normal, non-electric kids' toothbrush. That works well but I am wondering if it might not be more effective (and fun?) to use an electric brush, provided that I can buy bristles suitable for small children.

I'll ask my dentist on my next visit, but that's not anytime soon. What are your experiences with electric toothbrushes? How soon can one start using them?

Update/clarification:
My son is still too young to brush his own teeth -- he just chews on the toothbrush. So we do it for him, and I'd like to know if there's any argument against going electrical there. I'm not disputing that an electric toothbrush probably makes things more fun for kids when they brush their own teeth, but we're not that far yet.

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Not really an answer to your question, but if mom and/or dad use an electric, a kid may be more encouraged to brush if he/she can use one like mommy and daddy. –  ND Geek Nov 15 '12 at 21:59
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5 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As a speech language pathologist, I often treat children with oral motor, feeding and sensory integration disorders. For these children, I encourage caregivers to use the electric toothbrush to promote oral sensory awareness/development and provide intense stimulation to their central nervous system.

These children usually crave sensory input and they greatly enjoy both the electric toothbrush and other vibrating oral motor toys. This is often the first toothbrush that little ones can tolerate without gagging or rejecting.

I use vibrators in the mouth of children long before they get teeth, so there is no age limits.

For very young children, I usually introduce the vibration by touching the handle playfully to a leg or arm briefly and removing. I continue this traveling up the arm to the cheek continuing to "kiss" the child with the device briefly. When the child shows no rejection, I prolong the touch and allow the child to hold and explore the device independently at will. I coach them to place the device in and around the mouth as needed.

A vibrating toothbrush has much more to offer young children than clean teeth and I support its use for even very young children.

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You can start using them as soon as you think your kids will understand how to use them. There isn't anything inherently good or bad about using an electric toothbrush at any age as long as the child understands how to use it to get their mouth clean. That's the trick. What I like about the electrics is that you can get ones with timers so you can teach your kids how much time they should be spending on each quadrant of the mouth for optimal cleaning.

You can also just get timers and teach them with a normal brush but that's not as much fun :)

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I suppose I didn't phrase my question clearly enough - I am brushing my son's teeth for now, as he's too young to do it himself. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 25 '11 at 7:20
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My kids are 5 and 3, and they both got electric toothbrushes from their Grandma this last Christmas (the youngest was 2 at the time). Neither of them has had any trouble with them, so I'd say that you could have them using electric toothbrushes as soon as you have them brushing their own teeth.

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Is there any reason not to use them when the parents are brushing the child's teeth? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 25 '11 at 7:18
    
Not that I'm aware of. –  Mike Partridge Aug 25 '11 at 11:59
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My daughter just turned two and we switched to electric toothbrush. She likes it better than the manual brush, I think. Also, she doesn't try and bite the electric one like she did with the manual one. We brush together, her hand under mine and use a mirror to watch what we are doing. I hope this will help her get ready to do the brushing independently.

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I'm a dental hygienist and I have used an electric tb with my little dude from the start. He loves the vibration on his teething gumline. He just turned one and has 4 teeth. The key is to do what works for your individual child.

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