Tackling tween brushing

Tackling tween brushing

You may have overcome the battle of getting your toddler to brush their teeth only to discover that older children come with a different set of tooth-brushing challenges! How can you get your now independent ‘tween’, aged 8 to 12 years old, to brush their teeth effectively? Dr Catherine Rutland, Head Dental Officer at Simplyhealth, offers her top tips for tackling tween brushing.

To monitor or not to monitor?

“By age eight and above, your child will be brushing their teeth independently and it can be difficult to know if they have actually brushed their teeth - and if they have brushed properly,” says Catherine. “You don’t want to go down the road of over-nagging or hovering in the bathroom to supervise brushing as this will probably make them push back and less likely to brush altogether. On the flip side, letting them be completely independent without much insight into their oral health routine isn’t going to be appealing for you either.

“Try to brush together as a family in the mornings when you’re all getting ready, and they can observe that it’s a normal part of everyone’s daily routine. In the evenings you’ll be brushing at different times, but you can ask them to brush before they’re allowed one final book or play with their favourite toy or game.

“You can also try putting the toothpaste on their brush for them ready to use, but leave them in the bathroom on their own to brush and pop back after two minutes.”

Try a ‘contract’

While brushing reward charts work well as an incentive for younger brushers, older children may prefer the concept of a ‘contract’ according to Catherine. “You can draw up an agreement whereby they agree to brush for two minutes twice a day, and work towards a reward. Older children are generally more responsive to this grown-up approach and appreciate that they’re investing in an agreement from both sides.”

Explain the benefits and consequences

Although they’re not yet teenagers, the tween age group may be starting to think about their personal hygiene and appearance according to Catherine. “Explain the importance of healthy teeth, confident smiles, and fresh breath, and that taking good care of their erupting adult teeth will be beneficial for their future.”


Catherine advises to think of rewards that are appealing to their age group. “This could be working towards fun days out, time credits for playing on their computer or games console, pocket money, or particular toys or clothes that they like.”

Use the right tools

“Children in this age group love gadgets, so make brushing easy and fun by investing in an electric toothbrush for your tween,” suggests Catherine. “Electric toothbrushes can help ensure a thorough brush, and they often include two minute timers to keep users on track. There are lots of models on the market, so work with your dental team to find one that’s suitable for your tween and something they like.”

Regular dental visits

“Your tween may be more likely to take advice and direction from their dentist, says Catherine. “Booking regular dental visits will encourage your tween to keep up their oral health routine in between appointments.”

Seeing a dental hygienist

Now that your tween is getting older and has more adult teeth, your dentist may recommend regular visits to a hygienist, which can help to encourage a good oral health routine. A hygienist can provide tips on brushing and flossing and use disclosing tablets to highlight to tweens where they might be missing key areas. You can also invest in some disclosing tablets to use at home on a monthly basis to keep up good habits.

Remember the essentials

  • Brush for two minutes, twice a day
  • Use a suitable strength fluoride toothpaste for their age group – this should be 1,350-1,500ppm (the same as adults)
  • Use a toothbrush that they like (favourite colour/character or electric) and a fluoride toothpaste that they like the taste of
  • Replace toothbrushes or electric toothbrush heads every three months

You can ensure your child receives the best start in oral healthcare by registering them on Denplan for Children. This plan is designed with your child in mind and tailored specifically to their dental needs.  

To find out more, speak to a member dentist near you

two Teenagers brushing their teeth

Helping kids getting into good brushing habits