Friday, July 8, 2016

When Can Kids Start Brushing and Flossing Their Own Teeth?

Before considering when it's time to teach children to brush and floss on their own, let's first review the basics:

The health of your children's teeth and gums is directly linked to their overall well-being. That is why teaching young children, and yes-babies, the importance of taking care of their teeth and gums is extremely important.

Beginning Steps of Dental Care

Attention to good dental care should start as soon as your baby's teeth are visible, which is typically around four months of age. It is a good idea to incorporate routine teeth cleaning into your baby's day so that they become used to the idea-early on.

At first, you may want to use a washcloth to clean your child's teeth and eventually move to a small toothbrush. Some dentists suggest making the switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush when the first four bottom teeth are all in place.

Please note: during the early years, prior to your child's second birthday, the teeth should be cleaned or brushed only with water. Babies under the age of two are unable to control the action of spitting and swallowing which could cause them to choke as well. Also this could cause them to associate brushing their teeth as something uncomfortable.

Transitioning to a Dentist

During their first year and as your child transitions from baby to toddler, is when regular dental appointments should begin, The American Dental Association, or ADA recommends that all children should be seen by a dentist before their first birthday. This gives them a chance to get used to the dentist and get comfortable with the new experience. With very young children, it is vital that those first impressions are favorable, which will make future dental appointments much easier.

It is usually somewhere between the ages of two and three that small children develop the manual dexterity that will enable them to hold a toothbrush. When you think the time is right for them to try brushing on their own, make sure to schedule a visit to the dentist so that the child may learn proper brushing techniques.

After age two, children can begin using a fluoride-free toothpaste created especially for that age-group. It is best to discuss the child's individual fluoride needs with your family dentist. Do not make the switch and expect your child to brush on their own until you think they are truly ready. Until then, continue to brush your child's teeth twice a day with a child-size toothbrush and a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.


As for flossing, children are normally unable to do that unassisted until around their sixth or seventh birthday. The ADA suggests that parents floss for them when the child has two teeth that touch. Use waxed floss only!  Then, flossing should be done once a day.

To encourage young children to incorporate taking care of their teeth and gums into their daily routine, make it fun and easy. For example, provide a step stool or safe way to access the bathroom sink. Also create a dental "tool kit" for them that includes age-appropriate items such as toddler toothpaste, easy-grip toothbrush and waxed floss.

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