Toddlers are often stubborn when it comes to the essentials of life; as any parent can attest, they are often reluctant to dress, eat, and sleep. Dental care is no exception, but the dental health habit toddlers develop set the stage for healthy teeth and healthy habits throughout life. Knowing how to care for your toddler’s teeth is quite important: although baby teeth fall out eventually, if they become seriously decayed they can cause serious complications, including damage to the adult teeth and systemic infection.
Toothpaste & Brush
Until the age of 2, you should use a non-fluoride toothpaste unless a dentist or physician recommends otherwise. Toddlers don’t need much toothpaste, and using too much can be both messy and dangerous; an amount the size of a pea is plenty. When buying a brush, be sure to choose a child-sized brush with soft bristles. A PeriClean toothbrush can be a good choice for a gentle but effective toddler toothbrush.
Toddlers’ teeth should be brushed twice a day; it’s helpful to brush them at the same time as you brush your own, so your child comes to see that brushing is also part of your daily routine.
How to care for your toddler’s teeth: brush gently for about 2 minutes, in a circular motion that reaches the gums as well as the teeth. Brush the front, tops, and backs of the teeth. Be sure to be gentle as you brush – most people brush their own teeth too hard, and toddlers’ teeth and gums are even more delicate.
When teeth grow next to one another, plaque can accumulate, and daily flossing is necessary. Often, only the front teeth are close enough together to need flossing in toddlers. If you’re uncertain, check with your dentist. Daily flossing should accompany twice-daily brushing for toddlers.
Sugary drinks are a big cause of cavities in people of all ages, including toddlers. Try to keep juice and other sugary drinks to a minimum, and encourage the consumption of plain water throughout the day, especially if the child had juice earlier in the day. Drinking plain water after a sugary drink or a meal can help rinse sugar and starch from the mouth.
First Dentist Visit
Babies should start seeing the dentist as soon they have a few teeth, before or around the 1st birthday. During this appointment, the dentist will assess your child’s dental health and needs, including determining whether your child is at an elevated risk for cavities. He or she will recommend general tooth care, demonstrate techniques of how to care for your toddler’s teeth, and get you on schedule to have regular check-ups.