There’s nothing better than when a child first learns how to buckle their own car seat, make their own breakfast or reach the tap to get themselves a drink. These are the little wins that make our day as a parent that tiny bit easier. The question I get asked all the time is, when should a child brush their own teeth? And the answer to this question will truly astound you!
Firstly, let me stress that the earlier you can get your child to learn about oral health and oral hygiene, the better.
From the moment your child’s first tooth begins to show, you should be making sure that you brush their baby teeth at least twice a day, once before bed, using a kids toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. There are plenty of age-appropriate kids toothbrushes and toothpaste available in a variety of flavours.
As soon as your child’s first teeth start to appear you should arrange for them to see a dentist. Every three months is best, to make sure that the teeth and gums are healthy. It is important to start to get your child used to the dentist as soon as possible before they develop a fear of the dentist chair.
I used an extra soft,0-3 years, kids toothbrush as soon as my children’s first teeth came through.
As children get to the toddler stage they should be encouraged to have a go at brushing their own teeth, with your help.
I let my toddlers brush their own teeth, then I brushed their teeth afterwards, telling them that I was just checking that they had done it properly.
Allowing your toddler to have a go at brushing their own teeth encourages them to get used to holding the toothbrush, allows them to get used to the routine of brushing twice a day and also helps to impart in them the importance of oral care and healthy teeth.
I prefered to use an extra soft, battery-operated, toothbrush on my toddler’s teeth from the age of 3 years old, along with a maximum cavity protection 3+ kid’s toothpaste.
A child should be confidently brushing their own teeth by the time they start school, however, it is still not time to hand over the reins just yet. primary school is a great time to teach them all about tooth decay and the importance of keeping their teeth clean.
By now your child should have an established tooth brushing routine, & should feel comfortable and at ease with brushing by themselves. You should still brush your child’s teeth after they have finished, making sure there are no areas that they have missed.
If your child does have any weak areas in their teeth, the dentist may paint on a fluoride varnish to give a protective barrier, usually on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.
Junior school teeth
At the age of about eight years old, your child should be fully aware of the importance of good dental health, they should be visiting a dentist every three months and should be able to brush their teeth confidently without the help of their parents. So, the big question is, when should a child brush their own teeth without the help of an adult?
The answer is, not yet!
When children brush their teeth, there are often spots that they miss, if these are missed twice a day, every day, tooth decay can easily start to happen.
Between the ages of 5 years and 12 years, children lose their baby teeth and grow their adult teeth, so, it is even more important that you help your child brush their teeth, especially at this crucial stage.
When should a child brush their own teeth with no parental help?
I checked with my dentist and he said that a child should be ready to brush their own teeth from the age of 12 years old! So, it’s not time to hang up the toothbrush just yet!
Tips to help a child brush their own teeth
From the age my kids were able to brush their teeth, I used to brush my teeth at the same time as them, kids love to copy adults and teeth brushing is no exception.
Try to make it as much fun as possible by pulling funny faces or making goofy noises etc and make it a time in the evening that they enjoy!
What to do if your child refuses to brush their teeth.
If your child refuses to have their teeth brushed I’d just pretend it’s no big deal and ignore their winges.
I would then start to brush my own teeth in front of them, 9 out of 10 times my child would copy me as that’s what kids do.
On the odd occasion that there was a huge temper tantrum and nothing was going to change their mind about having their teeth brushed, I would ignore their behaviour and brush their teeth after they had fallen asleep.
Ignoring any negative behaviour towards teeth brushing prevents this becoming an issue every evening , we all know how kids love to act up at bedtime!
I also used a glittery egg timer as a distraction when my kids were toddlers, and often put the timer on when it was time to brush!
Sometimes talking in a funny voice helped break the tantrum but as we all know with kids, what works one time doesn’t work the next time!
Just remember it’s a stage every kid goes through and it won’t last forever!
Once your child can spit out the toothpaste then they are ready for adult paste. spitting should be encouraged but your child should be told not to rinse as this will get rid of the fluoride.
You should brush your child’s teeth for at least 2 minutes twice a day. Some children’s toothbrushes have a built-in timer which tells you to brush a different area of the teeth.
Kids should brush their teeth at least twice a day, and definitely just before bed.
Follow this link from Stanford Children’s Health for a guide and some advice on the age children should start flossing.
There are many children’s battery-operated toothbrushes that are gentle enough for kids to use from the age of three years old. I found that my toddler definitely found it easier to brush his teeth with a battery-operated brush than a standard kids toothbrush.