Toddler Dental Health: What You Need To Know

It's never too early to start your toddler on the road to healthy teeth


 

Your toddler may only have about four teeth at the moment, but it’s not too early to start taking care of them. Now-a-days, dentists like to have a first visit around a child's first birthday. He or she can make a quick check for possible problems with the erupting teeth and, most importantly, it helps to get your child used to dental visits.

Once those teeth are up, you can start brushing them. Look for a small toothbrush designed for toddlers with rounded, soft bristles. Plan to brush twice a day, usually after breakfast and before bedtime – but don’t wait until your toddler is really tired or you won’t get much cooperation.

It might help to brush your own teeth first, while your toddler watches (or helps!). Then try to persuade her to open her mouth so you can brush her teeth, using small circular motions on both the front and back of the teeth. As she gets older you can add a tiny smear of toothpaste, working up to a pea-sized dab by the time she’s three or four.

Once there are teeth touching each other, you can add flossing to the routine.

While brushing is important, your toddler’s intake of food and drinks can also contribute or detract from his dental health. Foods high in calcium and vitamin D help the toddler to grow stronger teeth, for example. Juices or other sweet drinks, candies and sugary foods such as dried fruit (including raisins), granola bars, toffee and other desserts can all cause cavities to develop.

Avoid letting your toddler walk around with a sippy cup or bottle, or take one to bed (unless it only has water). Juice, formula and cow’s milk can all cause decay. Breastmilk on its own does not cause cavities but it is a problem if it mixes with other foods or liquids in the child’s mouth. So if your toddler likes to nurse during the night, just make sure you brush his teeth and give him a drink of water before bed, to ensure those night-time nursings won’t cause him any problems.

If he uses a pacifier or sucks his thumb, you might want to work on eliminating these as they can affect the development of his jaw and mouth.

Be patient as you help your child learn how to care for his teeth. He’ll probably need your help with brushing for several years, and he may be resistant at least some of the time. 

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