For some reason getting kids to perform basic hygiene tasks can be a near-impossible feat. Case in point: teeth brushing. These dental hygiene challenges could be in part due to the fact that kids younger than 6 don’t have the manual dexterity to properly clean their teeth with a regular toothbrush. Since the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that kids brush their teeth for two minutes, twice a day, it’s a good idea to shop for a toothbrush they actually like — and that’s easy to use. That’s where U-shaped toothbrushes come in. Scary Mommy reached out to Board-Certified Pediatric Dentist Dr. Elyse Kerschner, DDS, to learn more about the best U-shaped toothbrushes for kids.
Based in New York City, Dr. Elyse Kerschner is a board-certified pediatric dentist at Village Dental Medicine. She attended Binghamton University, where she earned her B.A. before receiving her doctorate in Dental Surgery at New York University College of Dentistry. She went on to receive her specialty training in pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center. She is a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry and is passionate about making children feel more confident visiting the dentist. Automatic Toothbrush
For the uninitiated, a U-shaped toothbrush is shaped like, you guessed it, a “U,” and is intended to clean all the teeth at once. It fits over your child’s teeth like a mouthguard, and there are manual and electric versions.
The short answer is yes; they are safe. But the not-so-short answer really lies in whether they are effective in getting kids’ teeth clean. Dr. Kerschner advises, “Even though they seem easier to use, they aren’t effective at fully removing all the plaque and food debris on the teeth.” Turns out Dr. Kerschner isn’t alone in her recommendations. Many dentists prefer that children use manual or electric toothbrushes or that parents brush their kids’ teeth until they are able to do so effectively on their own.
That said, if it’s a matter of getting your kid to brush their teeth at all, a U-shaped toothbrush could be a way to jumpstart dental hygiene, and from there you can ease into introducing other toothbrush models. For children with developmental differences, a U-shaped toothbrush is a way to still work on brushing regularly even if the dexterity piece isn’t there yet.
If you’re having difficulty getting your kids to brush their teeth, Dr. Kerschner also recommends turning to technology. “There are so many fun apps and podcasts out there to help kids brush,” she says. “With siblings, you can have a weekly/monthly competition; they have to encourage each other to both brush two times a day to win. Hello toothpaste also makes really fun flavors like Unicorn Sparkle to help kids get excited.”
If you decide to use a U-shaped toothbrush, be sure to check your child’s teeth and, of course, stay up to date with dentist visits. Check out the best U-shaped toothbrushes for kids below.
The Yotee U-shaped toothbrushes use food-grade silicone so they are safe for kids to use on their tender gums. They are designed to reach the back teeth and come in a pack of two with two sizes to choose from. The version for kids ages 2 to 6 has a short handle with a loop that makes it easy to hold. The version for kids ages 6 to 12 has a longer handle. With more than 1,000 perfect five-star reviews on Amazon, this toothbrush set will help you, as one reviewer put it, “feel confident all [their] teeth are being touched by toothpaste.”
Helpful Review: “I bought these for the 2 and 4-year-old, because they hated brushing their teeth with traditional kids' toothbrushes so much that it was a fight almost every night. I found these and gave them a shot, and I will continue using these until all of the kids are old enough to brush on their own. The two and four-year-old ask to brush their teeth now and they can do it without my intervention! When the youngest is old enough, she'll get one too!”
This electric U-shaped toothbrush comes with two U-shaped brush tops and two soft-bristle tops, so you can switch back and forth to get your kids' teeth nice and clean. It has five different ultrasonic modes so you can customize your child’s toothbrushing experience, and there’s even a 60 second timer so you can encourage them to brush long enough to get a full clean. The adorable dino body of the device is covered in waterproof silicone, so it’s safe from drops and spills. It’s charged via USB with an included cable.
Helpful Review: “This toothbrush is a game changer for getting my 4yr old to brush his teeth! The chunky handle is easy for little hands to hang onto (vs the typical slippery stick!) the super soft silicone bristles are gentle on sensitive gums & the automatic turn-off makes it fool-proof! We alternate between the U & standard brush finding the U brush best first thing in the morning & standard best for getting rid of the days food bits at night. Plus, you get a refill of each brush type, making it even a better value! So happy I found this toothbrush!”
This battery-operated U-shaped toothbrush lets kids choose from cute animals like a penguin, bear, or duck. In addition to the U-shaped brush head, it also includes a round and oval brush head. It’s easy to hold and has a convenient power button right on the front. It’s also waterproof so kids can safely brush their teeth in the bath or shower. It runs on one AAA battery (not included).
Helpful Review: “Great for my son with autism. My son normally hates brushing his teeth due to sensory issues but loves this tooth brush and is brushing voluntarily now! [...]”
This popular manual U-shaped toothbrush comes in a pack of four, and there are two different sizes: one for kids ages 2 to 6 and the other for kids ages 6 to 10. It has a suction cup base so that it can easily stand up straight on countertops. It’s made from food-grade silicone and has soft bristles.
Helpful Review: “My boys hate brushing their teeth, even with their electric toothbrushes. But once I gave them these they wanted to brush. They thought it was so fun how they just had to move the handle back and forth to clean their teeth. We were excited that it actually did a good job reaching all their hard-to-reach teeth. Definitely happy with our purchase.”
Dr. Kerschner recommends Hello toothpaste to help get kids excited about brushing their teeth. Flavors include Wild Strawberry, Unicorn Sparkle Bubblegum, and Juicy Grape. Parents on Amazon rave about how much their kids love this fun toothpaste that’s dye-free and contains no artificial sweeteners.
Helpful Review: “We were changing toothpaste constantly, trying to find one not too spicy that my kiddo would let us use for more than two days in a row. Finally, these did it! They don't foam as much as regular toothpaste, but they have fluoride, and my kiddo likes how they taste! A win for us. [...] I'm just happy she's no longer complaining about tooth brushing!”
Dr. Elyse Kerschner, board-certified pediatric dentist at Village Dental Medicine
Spotlight Sonic Toothbrush This article was originally published on Oct. 23, 2022