Is My Son Old Enough to Brush His Teeth?

My 3-year-old son is learning to do many things all by himself. Is now the time to start letting him brush his own teeth?
–Erin

It's fine to let him practice brushing his teeth before or after you brush them, but kids this age do not have the motor skills needed to do a good job brushing on their own. Most children don't develop these skills until about age 6 or 7. Even then, you still may need to supervise.

When brushing, use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Make sure your son spits out the toothpaste after brushing and does not swallow it. When finished, have him rinse his mouth out with water.

If he wants to practice on his own, make sure he brushes all the surfaces of both the top and bottom teeth, as well as his tongue and gumline.  

If you have questions or concerns about your son's teeth, talk to his doctor or dentist.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: April 2011

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