From the time they get their first teeth in until they turn three, you will have to do all the brushing. They just don’t have the coordination at these ages to be able to brush effectively at all. Some kids will be very cooperative for you to brush their teeth while other kids won’t be cooperative at all. Two out of three of my kids were really easy. The other was really challenging. I found that turning it into a game or distracting them while brushing was the best way to get it done. The toothbrush as an airplane or a tickler were really popular in my house.
Around age 3 they get quite a bit better at brushing their teeth and will continue to improve over the next four or so years. During this age range you’ll almost always need to go back behind them and brush again. They are usually trying to assert their independence around this time and will give you a lot of push-back but you definitely still need to help them out. At this age you also want to start using a small amount of fluoride toothpaste and start teaching them to spit it out. There are a couple of easy things you can do to make brushing easier at these ages.
- Sing a song or play a song that is right around two minutes long.
- Make it into a game.
- Comment after they brush about how “shiny” their teeth are and that they are blinding you. Kids are usually very proud of their shiny teeth!
- Use a fun electric toothbrush with their favorite character on it. An electric toothbrush will help them brush better too.
- Make it part of their bedtime routine. Kids at this age really value routine and will be more cooperative if it is a daily, expected thing that is done.
At around age 7 you can usually let them brush on their own entirely if you feel like they are up for it.
- Make sure you continue to check their brushing from time to time.
- Find a new age appropriate song for them to brush to. Brushing for the right amount of time is really critical.
- Buy some disclosing tablets and have them use them before brushing. These will stain any plaque on their teeth red and give them a visual goal to shoot for when brushing.
- Continue to have them use an electric toothbrush.