Do you know when your child is old enough to use a tooth brush solo? It’s not as simple as handing over the toothbrush and leaving the bathroom when they reach a certain age. The time to let your child use a toothbrush on their own depends on several different factors, such as age, maturity, focus, and physical dexterity.
How to Ensure Proper Care for Your Child’s Teeth
One thing is for certain, many parents stop brushing their children’s teeth and supervising before the child is ready to go it alone. We’ve broken down the ages and phases into a handy list to help you navigate the brushing years in a way that helps your child gain independence while still ensuring their teeth are cared for properly.
Infant Teeth Brushing: 3 Months to First Tooth
Yes, babies do need help with their oral health – even before they have teeth to brush. Baby’s gums are just as vulnerable to bacteria as their parents. In fact, due because infants do not produce as much saliva as adults, their mouths are more at risk. Fortunately, gum care for newborns is as easy as wetting down a washcloth and wiping them gently.
- Rub the washcloth carefully over the top, front and back of the gums.
- Take a quick swipe at the tongue and cheeks, as well.
- Do not use a toothbrush if your baby does not have teeth to brush.
- You can use an infant gum brush. It is a small rubber tool that slides over the finger to allow you to wipe down the gums.
Baby & Toddler Tooth Care: First Tooth Brush for 1 to 3 Years
Once your baby’s first tooth erupts, you can finally pull out that adorable “baby’s first toothbrush” you’ve been saving for the day that tooth arrives. You’re also welcome to keep using the infant finger brush for your baby, but watch out; babies like to bite with that brand-new tooth.
If your baby is over 4 months of age when the first tooth appears, you can use a light smear of fluoride toothpaste designed for brushing newborn gums and teeth. Be sure to continue cleaning the gums. Your tiny human will eventually lose all those teeth, but they will need them to eat and speak clearly long before they are gone.
As your child moves from babyhood to the toddler years, you will work to help them learn how to be an independent brusher, but you will still need to help them. Toddlers may be mastering dexterity at this phase, but it will be a while before they have the skills and the understanding to brush effectively. In these early years, you can also help your child with gentle flossing.
Remember that flossing is not meant to just get between teeth, but also down in the gum line.
If your child has tiny gaps between teeth that make flossing seem silly, you will still want to clean up the gum line, too.
Preschool Toothbrushing: 3 to 6 Years Old
As you venture into the preschool years, your child will likely be feeling a bit more feisty about getting help with this important task. While it might be tempting to let them take over, you’re still going to need to help them. You’ll absolutely floss their teeth for them.
Brush your child’s teeth twice per day with a soft brush and fluoride toothpaste. You are absolutely welcome to let them brush on their own first. This helps them learn the skill and helps them feel independent. You can simply create the expectation that Dad or Mom will always do a “final clean-up.” Be sure to floss gently to keep the gumline clear of plaque and tartar.
Older Children: 6 to 12 Years Old Still Need Tooth Brush Supervision
Once your child hits the kindergarten years, you can begin to let them take over. However, you will want to supervise them to ensure they are brushing properly. You may also need to continue flossing for the child. During these brushing sessions, it’s helpful to explain to your child why brushing is important. It’s not just a matter of keeping your teeth clean and your breath fresh, you are also protecting your whole body. Your mouth is the gateway to your health and the better you care for your teeth, the stronger the gate will be in preventing bacteria. You know your child best, so you can gear the discussion to their age and maturity level.
If your child really struggles to brush properly, it is okay to help them. Remember that oral health influences development at all phases of life, so children with poor brushing habits really do need help. It can be helpful to explain where they need improvement as you help them brush. Eventually, they are going to get it. Persistence pays off!
At this phase, your dentist is an ally in the mission to promote oral health. Routine cleanings will detect issues with brushing and flossing. Your dentist will reinforce the importance of oral hygiene and provide positive reinforcement and incentives like toothbrushes or stickers that reward their hard work.
The Tween and Teen Years: 13-Adulthood
This is the phase of life where you really want to let your child take the reins in caring for their teeth and gums. During the teen years, your child may become wholeheartedly involved in brushing to fit in with their peers. They may also still need prodding from their parents. Many teens undergo orthodontic treatment at this age. It is very important that you ensure they brush properly around brackets, wires, and other appliances/devices to prevent cavities, calcification and discoloration. Continue with twice-yearly dental exams and cleanings and do periodic check-ins. Don’t worry about the eye-rolling; they’ll thank you later.
We hope this list can help you navigate your child’s oral health and keep them brushing through all phases of their time in your home. It will give them a healthy start and a healthy smile. Book your child’s dental checkup today.