It’s wonderful when our children are old enough to do things on their own. From dressing themselves as little ones to driving themselves to soccer practice as teenagers, the road to adulthood is full of opportunities to learn some independence.
Brushing teeth is one of those duties most of us can hand off to our kiddos as they grow up. But with such an important task – one that is a key component to keeping a healthy mouth for a lifetime – how do we know they’re doing it right?
Teach Them the Right Way to Brush
Habits are hard to break, and most of us use muscle memory to brush our teeth. That means when we brush, we aren’t consciously thinking about what we’re doing. Rather, we rely on the way our muscles remember to.
If we teach kids the right way to brush from the get-go, they’re more likely to brush well without even thinking about it.
Help Them Brush, and Supervise
Parents are in charge of helping little ones brush as soon as they pop a tooth. You will need to brush their teeth for them until they are able to grip the toothbrush properly and brush themselves. Even then, you should take a turn brushing for them to reach spots they may have missed — until they have the skill to brush well enough.
At what age can you completely release the reins? That depends on your child.
Some dentists recommend keeping a watchful eye until the age of 10 or 11. That means, be nearby to supervise brushing sessions and make sure they’re brushing long enough. After that, just be sure you’re vigilant about signs of faking.
Do a Visual Check
No matter how old your child is, a visual check can be a great tool to see if they are brushing properly. What you’re looking for is no visible plaque on teeth and no food stuck between teeth. Plaque is the thin film of food debris that builds up on teeth. It’s what brushing is supposed to remove (before it turns into the harder substance known as tartar).
Use Plaque Disclosing Tablets
Available at most drugstores, plaque disclosing tablets are small tablets that reveal where more brushing is necessary. They're suitable for children old enough to understand the instructions and to know not to swallow them
Using them is fairly simple: you pop a small tablet in your mouth, chew it up, and swish it all around your teeth with your tongue. What follows is a silly colorful mess that will show you any spots on your teeth that still have plaque on them. From there, you can brush it away.
Plaque disclosing tablets are probably not something you want to do every day, but it helps from time to time show your kiddos where their brushing could improve.
Get Feedback from Your Child's Dentist
Maintaining routine visits with your child’s dentist is the best way to keep track of how well your child is brushing and flossing. They will be able to show you and your child some problem areas to improve on, and will have the expert tips you need to help your child get a better report for your next visit.