Children start their lives out pretty helpless. They need parental assistance for just about everything. Gradually, they gain independence as they learn how to make their bodies do what they want them to. But when does this extend to brushing their teeth? There are some signs you can watch out for that indicate your child is ready to brush their teeth by themselves.
The physical motions of brushing teeth may seem pretty simple to adults, but that’s because we’ve been doing it for most of our lives. It’s not a new skill we need to learn anymore. That’s not the case for younger children who are still learning fine motor skills. It takes some manual dexterity to properly manipulate the toothbrush to do a good job. Watch for dexterity developmental markers like being able to tie their shoes or write in cursive.
A sense of personal responsibility is helpful when it comes to brushing your teeth solo. If your child is going to have the responsibility of brushing their teeth on their own, you must first trust that they’ll take responsibility and do a good job. Look for examples of personal responsibility in other areas of their lives. If your child takes the initiative to get their chores and homework done, there’s a better chance of them taking the initiative to brush their teeth well.
At some point, children begin to develop an awareness of their hygiene. Looking well-kept, staying clean, and smelling nice become more important to them. If your child can brush and detangle their hair and shower and wash their hair on their own, there’s a better chance that they’ll prioritize their oral hygiene too. No one wants to be embarrassed by having bad breath, after all.
Most children are ready to brush their teeth by themselves around age 6. At this point, they’ve developed physically and mentally enough to do a good job. Children don’t all develop the same, however, so make sure you’re seeing signs that they’re ready before you turn them loose. You can always have them chew plaque-disclosing tablets to see how well they do. It’s another great way to test their readiness to brush their teeth by themselves.
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