At what age is a child able to brush his or her teeth unaided? I don't necessarily mean what age in years and months, rather the general development process.

I let my child brush his teeth on his own and after that I do it again. Now he wants to be a 'big boy' and doesn't want me to redo his routine. I, however, don't want him to get tooth decay, obviously. (I than explain that time and again, but well...)

4 Answers 4


They have to have the physically and mental capacity to continually brush all of their teeth for about 3 minutes (a number I've been told is good by many dentists).

If he's not able to get all the teeth, front and back, then what we have done with our kids is to set a timer for 1-2 minutes and let them brush, then have a parent brush for 1-2 minutes. One way to avoid conflict is to give them a choice: "Do you want to brush first, or do you want daddy to brush first?" Also, teach them to set the timer, because kids love timers for some reason.

Once they're old enough to brush on their own, I would still monitor them for the entire three minutes and make sure they're still setting the timer. At this time, you should brush your teeth along with them, so they see that its not just a chore for children, but something that all people have to learn and do.

  • If you can work through their initial toddler resistance and get them to relax and recline while you brush their teeth, they'll also have a better time visiting the dentist when they're older. We've done this with our youngest (5 now, not quite ready for solo brushing all the time) and it is the better way.
    – Nathan
    Apr 21, 2011 at 4:48
  • 1
    +1 for the Timer, we use a Sand-Minute Glass we got from our Dentist, my son knows to turn it over when he starts and when its finished he is done. We also help out at the end for hard to get places, as long as he knows he is ok with it.
    – MichaelF
    May 1, 2011 at 19:52

Not sure if they are still around (ask your dentist), but when I was young I remember there were some pills which you could shew after brushing. These pills stained badly / un-brushed areas bright red.

You could let your kid brush their teeth, chew the pill, check with them in the mirror for red spots and fix those until the kid gets it right on the first go more often than not.

  • I've seen those - but all the ones I've seen have a minimum age of, well, older than my kids are. I think 6 or 8. Which is at least useful for getting them back on track again with their permanent/adult teeth.
    – Tanktalus
    Apr 19, 2011 at 22:36

What I've been told and what I noticed watching my kids brushing their teeth is that you should help or at least watch your children till the age of 10. It's all about developing good habits as well as brushing in a proper way. Kids also may cheat just wetting a toothbrush.. :)


The right time is when your child manual skills are enough to brush its teeth. That is: when it's able to tie its shoes, then it's able to brush its teeth.

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