We polled dental professionals from across the mid-Atlantic region to address common questions in pediatric oral care. Our final expert voice is Dr. Maria Cordero-Ricardo, who has helpful advice for parents on brushing teeth.
Dr. Maria Cordero-Ricardo, DMD, MS, MPH | Philadelphia Pediatric Dentistry, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When are children old enough to brush their teeth on their own?
I use a helpful benchmark of when children can tie their shoes or cut food with a fork and a knife. That’s a good benchmark of manual dexterity. Until then, it’s great to let them practice by doing it first and having a grown-up go over it (with them). Some kids are ready around age 6. Some kids need a little more help until age 8 because we all develop at different rates.
What’s the best way to encourage children to brush their teeth correctly and regularly?
Children learn best from modeling of behaviors. Make sure to include them in your own family’s routines and rhythms. The littlest children see you brushing, the older children in the house—or if you have just one child—brushing side by side and making it part of a happy routine before bed and sometime in the morning after breakfast is ideal. But I like making it part of family routines because children learn from what the grown-ups do.