Keep tooth brushing fun for toddlers
There is no reason why tooth brushing small children’s teeth should be a ‘big deal’ – unless they perceive that avoiding it or fighting it is a ‘big deal’ for parents! Aside from keeping it a stress-free ‘no fight zone’, there are few things to keep in mind.
Getting used to the idea . . .
The earliest method of tooth ‘cleaning’, actually more a desensitisation process, is using a fore-finger wrapped in a corner of face cloth to rub over the teeth and gums. This can be started even before the first teeth appear.
Correct ‘first’ brush for children’s teeth
Supervised, toddlers can be given small toothbrushes to ‘chew’ or to copy siblings or parents. Allow and encourage this ‘play’ even though it is clearly not correct brushing technique. It is good practice for the routine to include ‘mum or dad’s turn’ with the brush, but in the spirit of a ‘no fight zone’, it is safe to miss an occasional day providing the dietary guidelines below are followed.
At around pre-school age, introduce a tiny smear of ‘First’ toothpaste and continue to take your turn with the brush. First teeth are often spaced apart, so a good diet and frequent brushing mean that dental floss can wait until a later stage. Check with your dentist.
Diet for kids’ dental health
Dietary habits make a huge difference to children’s dental health.
Drinking sweet fluids (including dilute fruit juice) from a bottle is strongly associated with ‘bottle caries’. This is a particular pattern of tooth decay that develops from bottle-feeding as the liquids have prolonged contact with the teeth.
It is widely recommended that juices only be introduced to the diet when children can manage a sip cup. Drinking this way deposits the liquid behind the teeth and it is swallowed with comparatively little exposure to the teeth.
Growing toddlers are always hungry, and their choice of snacks is important for dental health. Watch out for hidden sugars – always check the labels. Even healthy snacks – such as sultanas and other dried fruits/fruit snacks – are rich in fruit sugars. They are also sticky. Low fat muesli bars and biscuits are made palatable by increasing their sugar content.
Carrots to nibble on, cheese, plain rusks etc make great snacks. Occasional sweeter snacks are fine if taken with plain water to drink. Water should be the main drink between meals.
. . . keep it tooth friendly!
Learning to brush teeth as part of nightly routine is an excellent start to caring for children’s teeth, however it is possibly more important for toddlers to consider their teeth when filling bottles and packing or buying snacks.