Pinking the Plaque ~ Teaching the Art of Brushing One’s Own Teeth

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Our dentist recommends teaching our children to brush their teeth once they are able to write several sentences on their own.  We’ve always celebrated our children’s new found independence with a little trepidation.  After all, brushed teeth are not like tied shoes; we cannot visually check the results.  How can we be sure our children are really doing a good job?

When our youngest boys began brushing their teeth around age six, we played a new game.  They each received a little 3 minute sand timer, a new toothbrush, their very own tube of toothpaste and a bottle of alcohol-free fluoride rinse.  We challenged the boys to brush their teeth as the sand timer ran, using the full three minutes.

After the boys were done brushing, we “pinked” their teeth, using a dental disclosing solution to dye any remaining plaque.  The boys could see the areas they missed, and so could we.  As their tooth-brushing skills increased, we held periodic pop-quizzes, pinking their teeth randomly, and cheering as they passed the “pink test”.

Our boys are 8 and 9 now, and they’ve passed their pinking tests the last few months.  It’s been a fun and reassuring way to teach them to brush well.

How do you transition your children to brushing on their own?

~ Danika Cooley

Danika Cooley is a freelance children’s writer with a love for God’s Word, history, wisdom and small people. Her work has appeared in magazines including Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr., Pockets, Devozine, Keys for Kids, and Cobblestone Group’s FACES and Odyssey and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters.  




  1. marybethketchum says

    So I was definitely a little early on the brush your teeth yourself train. My son is only 16 months. HA! Live and learn I suppose. Some days he hates it, and some days he loves it!

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