Who Should Be Brushing Kids' Teeth?

Two girl toddlers brushing teeth at bathroom sink
Igor Emmerich/Image Source/Getty Images

Question: Who Should Be Brushing Kids' Teeth?

When should children start brushing their own teeth? My son is 4 and I don't think he's quite up for the task yet, but my wife disagrees, saying he needs to learn to do it on his own. He's been to the dentist for a checkup and so far, no cavities. The dentist said that when it comes to brushing kids teeth, we should do a mix of both -- my son doing some on his own and then a follow up by the parent. My wife thinks we should just let our son do it on his own. What do you think?


It probably seems like only yesterday your son didn't have any teeth at all, right?

You should definitely be helping your child brush his teeth until he turns about six. Up until that point little kids simply don't have the dexterity to reach every tooth properly. Here are some guidelines and tips that might help:

  • Everyone should brush teeth at least twice a day, after meals. Try to avoid eating or drinking for about a half hour after you finish brushing.
  • Kids should brush (or have their teeth brushed) for two minutes each session. Bring in a timer so they know exactly how long two minutes is. Try to focus one minute on the top and one minute on the bottom.
  • While you should be brushing your child's teeth until he reaches age 6, keep in mind that they do need to practice in order to learn the proper techniques. So take turns. Let your child brush first and then you go in and do another round. Or vice versa -- whatever works. You can also help your child brush his teeth by placing your hand on top of his while he brushes.
  • If your child doesn't like brushing your teeth, try turning it into a game. Sing a song, tell a quick story, go on a "germ" hunt -- anything to keep happy while you do what you need to do. If he still resists, talk about why brushing teeth is so important. The next time you go to the dentist, mention your child's resistance. She'll likely have some ideas and will gladly speak to your little one about why brushing teeth is something they need to do.
  • Choose a toothbrush that appeals to your little one -- there are many to choose from. An electric toothbrush is great for kids over 3. They do a much better job of removing germs than a manual brush. Plus, your preschooler may enjoy using it more.
  • Once your child can spit, it's OK to switch to a fluoride toothpaste. Being able to spit out the toothpaste is important because ingesting too much fluoride could cause teeth discoloration later on.

Related: Preschooler Self-Care Skills

Continue Reading