Oral care is crucial even before a baby’s first teeth arrive; most dentists recommend that parents clean their babies’ gums with a soft washcloth. And as soon as the first teeth break through the gums, they require additional care: a baby-sized toothbrush, a smidge of fluoride toothpaste, and twice-daily cleanings. Obviously, an infant can’t be trusted to handle these responsibilities right away. So, you might wonder, at what age should a child brush their own teeth?
The Early Days of Oral Care
- Gum Cleanings: As we mentioned above, it all starts with frequent gum cleanings. After each feeding, simply wipe your baby’s gums with a clean, damp, soft washcloth or gauze.
- The First Tooth: As soon as you spot a tooth, you should begin a tooth-brushing routine. Using a toothbrush designed for toddlers, brush your child’s teeth twice a day. Use a tiny dab of fluoride-containing toothpaste (about the size of a grain of rice).
- The First Dentist Visit: The American Dental Association recommends that you schedule your child’s first checkup soon after the first tooth appears and no later than their first birthday. During the visit, your dentist will check for tooth decay and discuss oral habits that can impact the teeth (thumb-sucking, tooth-brushing, etc).
- Developing Good Habits: At around age three to six, you can begin using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste instead. Continue brushing the teeth gently twice a day for about two minutes each time, and begin flossing as soon as your child has two teeth that touch. Create a routine of twice-daily brushing and once-daily flossing. Schedule dental appointments every six months.
At What Age Should a Child Brush Their Own Teeth?
There isn’t one ideal age at which all children should begin brushing their own teeth. Instead, parents should decide when the time is right based on the child’s ability to handle the responsibility. In addition, the child must be dexterous enough to wield a toothbrush. Typically, this happens sometime between the ages of three and six. The following tips may prove helpful as you get started:
- Teach Your Child to Spit. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the first things you’ll need to teach your child regarding oral care is how to spit. Sometimes kids are tempted to swallow toothpaste (especially if they think it tastes like minty ice cream!) so it’s important that they learn to spit into the sink after brushing and rinse their mouth with water.
- Let Them Practice. Many toddlers and young children want to try brushing their own teeth. While this is a good way to introduce them to the idea, it’s important that you follow up with a more thorough brushing to ensure that their teeth are truly clean.
- Take Turns. As your child learns how to brush more effectively, it’s often helpful to take turns brushing their teeth. Your child will slowly get used to the process, and you’ll be able to frequently remind them of the proper techniques.
- Check in Occasionally. Even after your child can be trusted to brush their teeth without any direct help from you, observe their brushing from time to time. Are they brushing for a full two minutes? Are they brushing too hard? Do they forget to brush their back teeth? Give them guidance as needed.
No matter when you begin trusting your child to brush their own teeth, it’s important that you supervise your child’s tooth-brushing routine until around the age of six. Not only does this help you ensure that your child is actually brushing their teeth properly (and for a full two minutes each time), but also it’s important that you check that your child is spitting out the toothpaste instead of swallowing it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s not important to care for your child’s baby teeth. Creating a strong oral hygiene routine from the start is key to maintaining good oral health over the course of a lifetime. If you’re having trouble with this, talk to your dentist about strategies you can use to improve your child’s dental health.
If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. For exceptional and comprehensive dental care, schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!