Your baby might have only begun to get teeth a few months ago, but that toddler she has turned into needs dental care as much as any adult. Unfortunately, toddlers are often resistant to brushing their teeth or having them brushed and it can be difficult to find a dentist equipped to deal with a very young child, or even to know when it’s time for a toddler to make their first visit to the dentist. Here’s what you need to know to take care of your toddler’s teeth:
Preventative Oral Care for Toddlers
The toddler years are when the foundations of important lifelong habits are often laid down. Many parents give into pressure to give their children sweets and sugary snacks, but the truth is that if you don’t give these to your child in her toddler years, she may never want them. There’s good evidence that our food tastes are formed early in life, so work on teaching your child to appreciate foods that are healthy for her. Never, ever give a toddler soda. Sugary juices are also a bad idea. Most of a toddler’s fluids should come from water, and toddlers should not be allowed to suck juice or milk out of a sippy cup all day. Providing a toddler with constant access to these substances rather than just providing them occasionally at meals can cause her to develop a sweet tooth that can set her up for oral health problems later. Moreover, when developing baby teeth are exposed to lots of sugar, the consequences to oral health can be especially bad.
How to Brush a Toddler’s Teeth
It’s important to begin brushing your child’s teeth when she gets them, but many toddlers are resistant at first. Allow your child to pick out her own toothbrush and even decorate it if she wants to. You can experiment with different flavors and colors for toothpastes as well. The key with toddlers is to avoid fluoridated toothpaste, which can make your child sick if she swallows it. You should also make sure to brush her teeth on the front and back with a soft toothbrush made for tender toddler gums. Encourage and allow your child to brush her own teeth if she wants to; this encourages independence as well as a commitment to good oral hygiene. Just make sure you brush them yourself as well to get any spots she missed.
Flossing a Toddler’s Teeth
While toddlers don’t need to have their teeth flossed, getting your toddler used to floss now can help her be more tolerant of it later. Get some flavored floss and practice flossing together. When she’s old enough to need to floss she’ll be more likely to allow you to do it. Most kids aren’t ready to floss their own teeth till the elementary school years, so this is something she’ll have to feel good about letting you do. Make it a game now and she won’t hate it later.
First Visit to the Dentist
Fear of the dentist is one of the most common adulthood fears, and many children hate the dentist as well. Consequently, it’s important that you make your child’s first trip to the dentist the very best it can be. Find a dentist who specializes in children, who works diligently to avoid causing your child pain, and who has a fun waiting room and lots of prizes for a good checkup. Most dentists recommend that your child have her first trip to the dentist around two, so it’s a good idea to start shopping for a dentist before then. You can even take your child on a meet and greet to the dentist before her first visit and allow her to pick the dentist she likes the best. Giving your child a sense of control and autonomy is likely to make a trip to the dentist much more pleasant.
Your toddler may not yet have all of her teeth, but baby teeth need care just as much as adult teeth. Laying the foundation now for a lifetime of healthy dental habits will help your child avoid the dreaded toothache later in life!