What’s the best way to teach your child how to brush their teeth?

Gaining independence is an important skill as children grow up. While some children crave independence, others may take longer to get there. And as your child gains more independence and confidence, they’ll start taking on more responsibilities and actually want to start doing things on their own. But how do you know when your child is ready to brush their own teeth?

Start early.

The earlier your child gains independence, the better. You can have them start gaining independence as early as the toddler years with tasks that are as easy as choosing their own clothes. Let your child choose their own shirt and pants for the day, even if they don’t necessarily match. Your child will begin to learn how to make decisions, which in turn builds their confidence!

Another easy way for children to start to gain independence and confidence is by having them help with chores. Let your child set the table for dinner or help take out the trash. As your child masters those tasks, move on to other chores like cleaning their room, running the vacuum, and doing the dishes. All of these little chores are small stepping stones to gaining independence and confidence because your child can learn to appreciate the joy and success in completing a task.

Don’t rush it.

Remember that these little steps to independence shouldn’t be rushed. Everyone goes at their own pace, so you can’t compare one child to another. If your child isn’t ready to move on to harder tasks and more difficult choices, don’t rush them. When they are ready, they will let you know.

At what age should my child be able to brush their teeth on their own?

Since every child is different, there isn’t one perfect answer for when a child is ready to brush their teeth on their own. Most children have the necessary fine motor skills between ages 5 and  6. However, some children at this age may still need to be supervised (or checked afterward) to ensure they aren’t missing any areas or leaving plaque behind.

Explain the importance of dental hygiene.

If your child is ready to brush their own teeth, they need to understand the consequences of improper brushing and poor dental hygiene. Children need to understand that if they don’t brush their teeth correctly daily, they can get cavities, and that could lead to them needing dental work, like fillings. Part of children becoming independent is learning about the consequences of their actions, even if they are negative consequences.

Remember to brush properly.

Of course, ensuring your child is brushing their teeth properly is very important. Everyone, including adults, should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day and for a minimum of two minutes each time. A proper toothbrush is one that fits properly in the mouth, is easily maneuverable, and has soft bristles (never medium or hard!). There are toothbrushes with smaller heads designed specifically for children.

Show your child how to hold the brush at a 45-degree angle toward the gumline and move it in small, circular motions, ensuring to brush all surfaces of the tooth. If your child is using an electric toothbrush, they can let their toothbrush do all the work—they just need to make sure they hold the brush over each surface of every tooth.

And don’t forget to floss!

Daily flossing is another important part of a good dental hygiene routine. To floss properly, have your child hold the dental floss taught in between their fingers, then slide the floss in between the teeth. Gently rub it along the side of each tooth, making sure to curve the floss along the tooth as it enters the gumline.

Visit Spinnaker Pediatric Dental twice a year.

As your child becomes independent and is able to brush their teeth, don’t forget to schedule them with the team at Spinnaker Pediatric Dental at least twice a year for a dental evaluation and cleaning. Our team loves our patients, and we can’t wait to see their smiles as they grow!