When Your Child is Old Enough to Brush On His Own
All parents want their children to develop the skills necessary to assure them of a lifetime of health. Ultimately, we want our kids to understand the importance of adequate sleep; of a daily shower or bath; of wearing clean clothing; of washing hands after using the bathroom and before eating. As we teach these habits to our kids, we can see the evidence of a job well done: if the face is clean, it was washed; if we hear a toilet flush, we make sure to ask, “Did you wash your hands?” But how many of us know, really know, that our kids are brushing and flossing—or even more—brushing and flossing in a way that will keep cavities at bay?
When our children are infants, we wipe their tiny baby gums after nursing or bottle feeding, and take them to the dentist when they sprout that first tooth and then every six months thereafter. We brush their teeth for them, and watch over them when they learn to brush on their own but, face it, we yearn for the day when our child can take on the responsibility of successfully cleaning her own teeth twice a day. Unfortunately, the “2-times-a-day” rule for brushing comes at the busiest times of the day: in the morning, when everybody is rushing to get out the door and again at bedtime, which is crazy busy with baths, PJs and books. In other words, it’s easy to forget to make sure that our child is doing it right.
How do you know your child is ready to brush his or her teeth without your supervision? Here are some tips!
- Your child can tie her shoes. Manual dexterity is needed to manipulate a toothbrush to get at the back of the mouth and behind the teeth.
- Your child is between 6 and 9 years old. This is the typical age range during which children have the physical development needed to brush their own teeth.
- Your child can pass the tablet test. Have your child chew plaque-disclosing tablets before brushing, then again after brushing. Do this every night until you’re satisfied that she (A) knows how to brush and (B) brushes on a regular schedule, which is before school and before bed.
Don’t forget to help with flossing—it can be difficult for your child to stand still for it, but it’s the only way to eliminate plaque between teeth and below the gums where a toothbrush can’t reach. For easier flossing, buy a Y-shaped flosser or a water flosser.
My staff and I are committed to delivering the best pediatric dental care. If you need help brushing or flossing your child’s teeth, teaching them to do it, or any other aspect of home dental care, just ask us! We’re here for you!