When can children brush by themselves?

I have two children ages eight and four years. I still brush their teeth. At what age should they brush their own teeth?

Question:

There is no set age at which the child should take over brushing and flossing. This depends on the maturity level of the child and how well they can handle the brush and floss. It is possible your eight year-old may be old enough to brush on his own, but your four year-old may still need some help.

I recommend either watching them brush or examining their mouths after brushing to see how well they are cleaning their teeth. Disclosing tablets are an excellent aid to monitor plaque removal. These tablets are available in drug stores and dental offices. The procedure for using the disclosing tablet follows: 1) chew up the tablet and swish the resulting liquid it creates with the saliva for about a minute, 2) spit out the saliva in the sink, and 3) examine the teeth and gums. Any plaque not removed by brushing and flossing will be stained red. You or your child should then brush and floss again until the plaque is properly removed.

You should definitely be flossing your children's teeth. If your eight year-old remains uncooperative, ask your dentist or hygienist to discuss flossing with him. Your dentist and hygienist are also good sources for learning proper brushing techniques. I recommend having one of them demonstrate to you and your children proper brushing and flossing techniques. You should be sure to brush and floss your teeth regularly because children learn by example.

I do not recommend using water piks on children under 15 year of age unless they have trouble with manual dexterity. If a water pik is used on a child, use a low power setting.

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