Erupting with a slowly moving and ever progressing momentum, at around age six, the first molars emerge. Usually, a dull tooth pain is the first sign of what is to come. Later, a bulge of the gums, and finally the point of a tooth proclaims its presence.
With the new “six year molars” comes new responsibility. Yet, at six years old, a child may have adult teeth, but is still very much a child.
So when does a child become able to care for his or her own teeth? Well, as you might expect, the answer is complicated!
Most parents share a common goal: the desire to keep their kid’s teeth free of decay. But asking a child, even a teenager, to “Go brush your teeth!” may not be enough. Children lack the manual dexterity (fine motor skills) to clean teeth. In other words, mom can not just instruct the kids to brush unsupervised. Rather, mom needs to play a more active role in the cleaning process. And for many children that “more active role” means mom will need to sit down and physically brush her child’s teeth. The same logic applies to flossing. Children don’t have the ability to floss properly until rather late in life. It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure flossing happens properly.
So back to the question, when does a child become able to care for his or her own teeth?
The answer is simple! Check with your child’s dentist. Take your child in and have the dentist perform an examination to see how things are going. Your doctor will help you decide what kind of supervision is best. Hopefully, everything will look great, and the exam will be a wonderful opportunity to hang out with the dentist. And if you are lucky, maybe he will even juggle for you!