While oral care for toddlers has similarities for oral health care with older children and even adults, there are still a few differences. The biggest difference in care is not in what we need to do for proper care but how we go about it. The younger the child is, the more encouragement and patience necessary to care for their teeth.
This patience is necessary by the dentist and also by parents at home. Knowing that, here are a few suggestions for what parents need to include in the child’s care routine.
1. BRUSH WITH A TODDLER-SIZED TOOTHBRUSH
Oral care for toddlers begins with brushing their teeth twice per day. Some parents make the mistake of thinking that since a toddler is going to eventually lose all their teeth, those teeth are not important enough to brush regularly. This is a common but dangerous mistake to make.
In truth, a child’s first set of teeth plays a critical role in their development. Teeth help them to eat healthy foods and to speak clearly and articulately. Plus, they serve as a space holder for permanent adult teeth. If they fall out early due to infection or decay, that spot can be lost and they may need braces later on.
This makes brushing incredibly important and we encourage doing so using a toddler-sized toothbrush. It can even help to have a toothbrush with a fun character or color that the toddler will enjoy.
2. THE TOOTHPASTE MAKES A DIFFERENCE
As soon as the child can spit, it is best to brush their teeth using toothpaste containing fluoride. Fluoride can help to strengthen the enamel on the teeth and reverse some of the damage from eating, drinking and even brushing. Using a fluoride toothpaste is the easiest thing a parent can do to strengthen their children’s teeth and prevent tooth decay.
3. NEVER SEND THEM TO BED WITH MILK OR JUICE
Dietary choices play an important role in oral care for toddlers. Many toddlers still need a beverage at night. It is okay to take water in a sippy cup but that is it. If a child goes to bed with milk or juice, the sugar from those beverages will remain on their teeth throughout the night, increasing the likelihood of decay. This is so common that there is a name for this problem, baby bottle tooth decay.
4. THINGS TO AVOID
It is also important to avoid things like soda, sugary juice and candy. Anything that can put a lot of sugar or acid on the teeth is dangerous and likely to lead to tooth decay. Avoid these things and also introduce healthy foods like fruits and vegetables instead.
5. BRING THEM TO A DENTIST
The critical aspect of oral care for toddlers is bringing them to a dentist for biannual examinations and teeth cleanings. There may be additional preventive care procedures that we can perform. For example, we can place a tarnish on their teeth in a matter of minutes. It will help to decrease the likelihood of developing tooth decay, does not hurt and does not taste or smell.
Also, we may recommend placing dental sealant on the chewing surfaces of the teeth to prevent food from being trapped in deep ridges. This is another preventive care measure that can keep the teeth healthy and strong as they grow. However, before we can do any of this, we need to conduct an examination.