Life as a parent is a journey filled with an array of ‘firsts.’ Each milestone plays a crucial role in their development, from your child’s first steps to their first words. Equally important, though often overlooked, is the milestone of mastering independent tooth brushing. It’s about more than just fresh breath and bright smiles; it’s about nurturing habits that lay the groundwork for lifelong dental health.
Understanding the Basics: Tooth Brushing Before Age 7
The early years of your child’s life offer the perfect opportunity to instill the importance of good oral hygiene. However, children under the age of 7 typically need more manual dexterity to brush their teeth effectively. This is where your role as a parent comes into play.
Just as you’d teach them how to tie shoelaces, or button their shirts, or fasten a necklace, you can also guide them in learning the proper tooth-brushing technique. Demonstrate by brushing your teeth alongside them, making sure to highlight key practices like using gentle, circular strokes to clean every tooth surface, including those hard-to-reach molars at the back, the inside of the teeth, and right down to the gum line. It’s a practical and engaging way for your little ones to learn.
The Transition Phase: Developing an Independent Brusher
As your child grows, their abilities evolve too. Usually, between 7 and 9, children start showing signs that they’re ready to take the reins of their tooth-brushing routine. However, the shift from supervised brushing to independent brushing is not solely an age-based transition. There are vital skills and traits your child should demonstrate:
If you’ve noticed your child skillfully tying their own shoelaces, knots or bows, cutting soft foods with a knife, write in cursive, or draw detailed pictures, it’s a promising sign. The fine motor skills required for this are similar to those needed for effective tooth brushing.
An essential part of becoming an independent brusher is demonstrating responsibility. Evaluate how your child handles daily tasks such as routine hand washing, combing hair, or making the bed. If they manage these tasks independently and consistently, they’re likely ready to take on their tooth-brushing routine.
While it may seem trivial, mastering the act of spitting is a critical component of tooth brushing. Younger children often struggle to spit out toothpaste, which can lead to swallowing excess amounts. Encourage your child to spit into the sink and ensure they’ve mastered this skill before graduating to independent brushing.
Validating Independence: The Plaque-disclosing Test
Even after your child demonstrates the necessary dexterity, responsibility, and spitting skills, gauging how effectively they’re brushing is useful. A simple and practical approach is the plaque disclosing test. A plaque-disclosing mouthwash such as Listerine Smart Rinse is readily available at grocery stores like CVS, Walgreens, Target, and Walmart. It stains the plaque on teeth, making it visible and showing how well your child is brushing. Successfully passing the plaque disclosing test indicates that your child is ready to brush their teeth independently.
Schedule An Appointment Today
Remember, every child is unique, and their ability to brush independently may vary. At Sprout Kids Dentistry in Quincy, MA, our mission is to work alongside parents to ensure children develop sound oral hygiene habits.
If you still have questions or concerns about your child’s dental health, our pediatric dental experts led by Dr. Anderson are always ready to assist. Schedule a consultation today to help your child achieve the brightest smile! Together, we can help your child navigate the path to dental independence.