Your toddler has the cutest, most perfect set of baby white teeth and you want to keep them that way. Oral health begins for your young one even before they cut their first tooth, with gum brushing being the first thing you can do to keep your child's mouth healthy and free of bacteria.
Fast forward a few years, and you have a vibrant, smiling toddler with a full set of teeth. Here are things you can do to protect your toddler's smile, as well as a few oral habits you can change, to keep their teeth healthy as they age.
Do Give Your Child Sipping Cups
If you are worried about damaging your toddler's teeth because they are still using a bottle, your worries are valid. Dentists agree that your child should be upgraded to a sippy or regular drinking cup as soon as they no longer need a bottle of formula or whole milk.
Your toddler should be able to transition to a sippy cup with ease, being able to drink freely without spilling their beverage all over themselves. Sippy cups don't mold to your child's teeth as easily as bottle nipples do, which prevents malformation of the roof of your child's mouth or their front teeth.
Allow your child to have a sippy cup if your dentist allows the practice. Limit juice, soda, and other sugary beverages in your child's drinking cup, as sugars can lead to bacteria that damages your child's teeth. Acids in fruit drinks also damage tooth enamel.
Don't Give Your Child a Sippy at Night
The leading cause of tooth rot in young children, especially babies and toddler, is allowing them to fall asleep at night with a sippy or bottle. Even the lactose in milk wears down your child's young tooth enamel, causing small white spots that lead to cavities. The reason milk is bad at night is simple - lactose in milk is a sugar type that needs saliva to water down the substance, and you produce less saliva during rest.
If your child insists on a sippy cup to fall asleep at night, then water down their beverage so that it carries less impact on their teeth and remove the cup as soon as your child is asleep. Begin transitioning to water only at night to protect your child's teeth from decay while they sleep.
Do Encourage Tooth Brushing
Toddlers have very soft tooth enamel and don't need a hard-bristled brush to clean their teeth thoroughly. Hold your child's hand and gently cleanse their mouth with a soft-bristled baby toothbrush, using a pea-sized amount of children's toothpaste (or plain water, until your child gets used to brushing).
Don't Encourage Harsh Tooth Brushing Habits
Young children do not need to use adult toothpaste, which contains abrasive additives and has a higher fluoride content than children's toothpaste does. Your toddler does not need to use a hard-bristled brush, nor do their teeth need to be brushed aggressively.
Teach your toddler now to gently brush their teeth using an up and down or circular motion (not side to side), gently rubbing their gums with the bristles while they brush. Always supervise toddler tooth brushing practices to ensure safety.
Remember that your toddler should see the dentist by the time they reach a year old. If you haven't taken your child to the dentist yet, you are not a bad parent (the average age for a first dental visit is over two years of age). Schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist twice a year to keep your toddler's teeth healthy and strong.
Healthy dental practices begin in infancy, and you can do your part to keep your toddler's teeth glowing. We gladly accept young patients and are skilled in pediatric dentistry. Allow our team at Family Dental Center to help you care for your entire brood's oral health.