Afraid To Let Your Child Brush Their Teeth Alone? Here’s How I Overcame My Fears


Guest post contributed by Claire York for The Invisible Orthodontist.

When my son was a toddler he used to yearn to brush his teeth alone. However, I was just not comfortable with this. Now I am proud to walk by in the mornings and see him standing on his step stool brushing his teeth at the sink. Learning to trust him was tough, but now I am glad to see him taking his first steps toward independence.

It’s not as though my fears were completely unfounded – I had read about the dangers of fluoride poisoning if children swallow large amounts of toothpaste, and my son had already proved himself to be very fond of anything with a sweet flavor. I simply didn’t trust him to be left alone with a tube full of toothpaste.

I also worried that my son wouldn’t brush properly if I didn’t help him. I worried that he would either hurt his gums by brushing too hard or leave plaque on his teeth by not brushing thoroughly enough. Even though I knew his baby teeth would be replaced as he grew up, I couldn’t bear the thought of him developing cavities.

However, I knew that one day my son would have to take responsibility for his own dental health. I couldn’t keep helping him to brush his teeth forever. I decided to face my fears.

I decided it was time to have a talk with my son. I told him that he was becoming a big boy and that I was going to trust him with a big responsibility. I told him about the importance of keeping our teeth clean, and that if he let them stay dirty he might have to go to the dentist to have them removed. I also made sure he understood that toothpaste is not food, even though we put it in our mouths, and that he must never swallow it. My son seemed to recognize that I was giving him my trust and listened with unusual attentiveness.

We started off gently. First, I asked him to watch carefully as I brushed my own teeth. Before I brushed each section of my teeth, I explained to him how to hold the brush in order to reach that part of the mouth, and after he had watched me demonstrate I asked him to repeat the instructions back to me. Then it was his turn. With a look of serious concentration, he squeezed the toothpaste onto the brush and tentatively put it against his teeth. I watched proudly as he very carefully brushed every single one of his teeth, rinsed his mouth, and spat the toothpaste foam into the sink. He looked up at me with an enormous toothy smile – and every one of his teeth was clean and white!

At first, we would brush our teeth together in the mornings and evenings. I would let him do the brushing himself, but I would watch over him carefully. However, I sensed that he resented the feeling of me checking up on him; I knew it was time to back off. The first time he went into the bathroom by himself to brush his teeth, I sat in the next room chewing my fingernails with nerves and waiting for him to call me in, but he didn’t. Instead he emerged from the bathroom five minutes later and grinned to show me that his teeth were clean.

Now, as I walk past the bathroom door and see my son standing on his step stool to reach the sink, I smile to myself. He is quickly becoming an independent person; brushing his teeth by himself was only the first step on that journey.


  1. I thought I was the only one that was nervous about letting my kids brush their teeth by themselves! I’m glad to see I’m not alone!

  2. My kids are 7 5 and 2 andwith my oldest i was freaked out letting her doing it on her own but now with the 3rd one im goign with the flow

Speak Your Mind