How to Brush Your Child’s Teeth When They Can’t Do It Themselves

how to brush your child’s teeth

As soon as your child starts to get teeth, those teeth need to be taken care of to avoid issues like tooth decay. Most children start to get their first teeth at around 6 months of age; however, that means children are way too young to take care of those teeth on their own. That’s where the parents’ role comes in.

Parents should learn how to brush your child’s teeth to ensure that your child’s teeth have a healthy start. You’ll be responsible for brushing your child’s teeth until they’re old enough to brush on their own, which usually happens around age 6. Until then, read on to learn some best practices for how to brush your child’s teeth –– and be sure to schedule an appointment with your local pediatric dentist to keep your child’s smile healthy.

Start with a Child-Friendly Toothbrush

While you may love the toothbrush you use to brush your own teeth, chances are, it’s not a good fit for your child. The first step of learning how to brush your child’s teeth is learning how to pick out the right toothbrush for them.

Your child’s mouth is much smaller than yours, and thus, they need a toothbrush with a smaller head. Find a toothbrush with a head that can fit comfortably between your child’s teeth and gums. Some toothbrush manufacturers have toothbrushes that are designed for specific age groups, so look out for indicators on the packaging.

Your child’s toothbrush should have soft bristles, since stiffer bristles can irritate their sensitive gums. Don’t buy a brush with any added rubber bristles. They’re not actually any more effective at cleaning, and they can cut your child’s gums.

To ensure that you’re brushing your child’s teeth as effectively as possible, be sure to replace their toothbrush regularly. A good rule of thumb is to get a new toothbrush every 3 months. However, if the bristles start to fray or get misshapen, replace the brush ASAP. Misshapen bristles don’t clean as effectively and can irritate your child’s mouth.

Once you have the right tools, you can focus on how to brush your child’s teeth.

Tooth Brushing, Step by Step

Until your child can brush on their own, parents should learn how to brush your child’s teeth. The process is essentially the same as brushing your own teeth. Here’s the step-by-step process for proper brushing:

  • Step 1: Angle the toothbrush at 45 degrees towards the gums of the upper and lower teeth.
  • Step 2: Move the toothbrush gently back and forth with short strokes along the teeth and gums. Continue to move the toothbrush along the inner and outer surfaces of every tooth.
  • Step 3: Place the tip of the brush in an upright position to reach behind the front teeth along the top and bottom of the jaw,
  • Step 4: Brush the tongue to remove bacteria.

You should brush your child’s teeth twice a day, once in the morning and once at night, for two minutes each time.

What About Toothpaste?

Part of learning how to brush your child’s teeth is learning about when to introduce toothpaste. Children who are younger than age 2 should avoid toothpaste since they’re generally too young to spit it out. Brushing their teeth with just water and a toothbrush (along with regular dental visits) is sufficient.

For children who are younger than two years old, using toothpaste is not recommended since they don’t yet have the ability to spit it out. During this time, brushing their teeth with just a toothbrush and water will suffice.

Generally, children can start using fluoridated toothpaste around age 2. Before you introduce toothpaste into your child’s routine, consult with their dentist. When you do start to use toothpaste, a small, pea-sized amount is enough. If your child is sensitive to the strong mint flavor of standard toothpastes, try a kid-friendly toothpaste. You’ll find options with bubble gum or fruit flavors that will be more bearable for children.

When Can My Child Brush On Their Own?

There is no hard-and-fast rule that tells you when your child can brush on their own. Often, other indicators of their motor skills can signal to parents that the child has the dexterity needed to properly brush their teeth. There are seven signs that can indicate that your child is ready to brush on their own:

  1. Your child is between the ages of 6 to 9. The actual age varies for each child, but children typically learn to brush their own teeth within this age range.
  2. Your child can tie their shoelaces. Tying shoelaces requires a high level of manual dexterity. If your child can tie their shoes, they likely have the manual dexterity needed to brush their teeth properly, too.
  3. Your child does their homework and chores on their own. When your child starts taking responsibility for things in their life like doing their homework without being told, it may mean that they’re ready for the responsibility of teeth brushing.
  4. Your child can write in cursive. Writing in cursive requires a mastery of fine motor skills. If your child can write well in cursive, they will have no problem brushing their teeth.
  5. Your child practices good hygiene. If your child has mastered other personal hygiene habits like showering and brushing their hair, they can likely add toothbrushing to that list.
  6. Your child passes the plaque tablet test. You can have your child chew a plaque disclosing tablet, which will turn all of the plaque on their teeth into a bright color. If they’re able to brush their teeth and get all of the plaque, you’ll know that they’re ready to brush on their own.
  7. Your child passes the parent test. You can watch your child while they brush to make sure they’re using the proper technique. Once you feel confident with your child’s brushing abilities, you can let them handle it on their own.

Even after your child starts to brush their teeth on their own, it’s a good idea to continue to remind them to brush twice a day. As they get older, they won’t need your reminders, but ensuring that they’re following all of the best practices is a good idea when they’re just starting out.

Knowing how to brush your child’s teeth when they can’t do it themselves is a key part of early childhood oral care, especially if your child has special needs. Your child is depending on you to make sure that they start life with a strong, healthy set of teeth.

In addition to brushing your child’s teeth, it’s important to make sure that your child is visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. Once your child’s first tooth comes in, they should have their first dentist appointment. If your child is ready to visit the dentist, make an appointment with Toothfairy Pediatric Dental today.