Maintaining oral health is very important at any age. Tooth decay can occur for anyone, including toddlers. Given the importance of oral hygiene, parents often wonder when they should teach their children how to brush and floss on their own. Some people might use developmental milestones to determine this, such as when they are able to sign their name in cursive or tie their shoes. Developmentally, a child is usually coordinated enough to brush and floss on their own between the ages of 6 and 9. However, this does not necessarily mean that you need to wait until that age to teach them.
It can be difficult to pin down a specific age to begin teaching your child how to brush and floss since each child is different. Some kids can do it by the age of 4, others later on. However far along they are developmentally, it is important to work with each child individually.
How to Start Early
Generally, teaching your kids how to brush and floss can begin even before they are able to manipulate a toothbrush by themselves. If you start early, you probably won’t have your child learn everything at once. Instead, a step-by-step process will be more effective. Here is a breakdown of the process you might go through with your child as they reach certain developmental milestones:
1. Guided practice phase: As soon as your child is able to spit on their own, usually between age 2 and 3, begin teaching them how to brush. They won’t necessarily be able to manipulate the brush on their own, but they can hold the brush while you guide them through the motions. At this point, you should still do their flossing for them.
2. Supervision phase: At around age 5 or 6, children have developed the fine motor skills required to use a toothbrush. This does not mean they can brush their teeth as completely as is necessary, though. You will need to check up on them to make sure they do a thorough job. One way you can do this is to use plaque disclosing tablets, which will color plaque a certain color. This can make it much easier for kids to brush thoroughly, and it makes it kind of fun too. Also, you can start teaching kids how to floss with disposable flossing picks.
3. Flossing phase: At around age 9, kids will usually be able to brush and floss their own teeth without supervision. By now, they should be able to use either flossing picks or normal strands of dental floss, depending on their preference. Flossing picks can be easier to use, but normal floss is usually cheaper.
By involving your kids in their own dental hygiene early, you help them establish habits that will make it easier to learn to do it on their own later on. Less important than when you teach kids to brush and floss, however, is how you teach them. For added information and support with establishing your child’s oral health, contact Lynn Dental Care today.