When can children brush their own teeth?

Parents quickly learn that their children go through a transition marked by a desire to be more independent. They’re picking out their own mismatched clothes and no longer want any help when solving puzzles or complex toys. That newfound independence signals getting older and can be a healthy thing to nourish.

But what happens when a youngster suddenly believes he or she is capable of brushing his or her teeth without assistance?

Parents wrestling with their kids’ can-do attitude and if it’s wise to allow them to brush their teeth unassisted can familiarize themselves with certain guidelines to determine their youngsters’ readiness. According to Scripps Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics, most kids are at least six years old before they have developed the finesse and dexterity to handle a toothbrush in a manner that will effectively remove plaque. Dentists also may ask if the child can tie his or her own shoes, which can serve as a barometer of readiness to wield a toothbrush without assistance.

Pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend that children visit a dentist as soon as a child’s first tooth starts to appear. This also is when parents should begin to clean their children’s teeth. As a child ages, the natural proclivity to want to take charge of brushing teeth takes hold. The child may not yet have the manual dexterity to brush alone, but parents can encourage the child to brush and then go over the teeth as a “double check.” This helps foster independence while also ensuring teeth are fully cleaned.

Flossing may require even more dexterity than brushing, but it is essential for sloughing off plaque that accumulates between teeth and below the gum line, according to Parents magazine. Moms and dads can introduce their children to pre-threaded Y-shaped flossing tools, which are easier to handle than loose floss.

Parents will have to check on children even as they age to be sure they are practicing good oral hygiene. Parents who are in doubt about their children’s readiness can work with dentists or dental hygienists to assess skills and get other pointers.

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