At What Age Can Kids Brush Their Own Teeth?

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Posted on August 15, 2014
At what age can a kid brush their own teeth?

Hi, my name is Greg Evans, I am a (board certified) pediatric dentist practicing in Fort Collins Colorado.

The question you asked is a very good one and one I answer frequently. Surprisingly, many parents debate this question or answer it dead wrong. By far, most Dads have no clue as to their child’s ability to clean their own teeth. In fact I wonder about most Dad’s cleaning their own teeth let alone helping their children. But enough on genetics, to the question.

Remember learning to print and write cursive in school? When they still taught cursive and handwriting, schools didn’t even start until third grade. You know the reason? Kids did not develop the fine motor skill until about age eight.

Well, that’s the same answer for a child brushing their own teeth. Until a child can develop the motor skills to brush along the gum, put the bristles of the toothbrush and an angle for upper and lower teeth and do so systematically, they can’t clean their own teeth effectively. Parents have to help to get a the hard to reach places. Period. When you put it that way it makes sense doesn’t it? Even Dad will understand why now.

I see brushing as a continuum of responsibility. When a child is and infant, they get brushed for 20 seconds with water by Mom or Dad without debate.

At about 18 months, the child can role play brushing by getting non fluoride tooth paste and holding the toothbrush, but Mom and Dad clean.

At age 3 we introduce a small smear of fluoride toothpaste and teach spitting, hopefully into the sink?

At age 5 the child will proclaim his independence. If he and go to kindergarten he can brush his own teeth. No no no! Kido can brush all be himself, BUT Mom or Dad finish up, and don’t forget the floss.

For some children, Mom and Dad can brush once a day and let kido brush once a day unsupervised at 6-7 years, but be selective and be watching. Often kids figure out how to wet the toothbrush and begin to develop bad habits right now. Be careful, they also carefully study their parents habits. You know who I am talking to again, Dad!

At eight, talk about brushing the smile side, tongue side and chew side of the teeth for at least two minutes. Talk about why we floss and supervise and model good behavior. Get some old fashioned red-coat tablets from your dentists or the newer blue dyes to give your child pop brushing quizzes. Cavities are both preventable and expensive, and not nearly as hard to teach as potty triaining! Do your best for a lifetime of good oral health.

For more details or to find out what other questions you may need the answers too, log on to my website at or email me. I love what I do and I would love to help you raise beautiful healthy children!