Toddlers and tooth brushing…
The main reason tooth-brushing for toddlers ends in fights is they perceive that avoiding or fighting is a ‘big deal’ for parents! Aside from keeping it a stress-free ‘no fight zone’, there are few things to keep in mind.
Clean the gums before first teeth appear
The first method of tooth ‘cleaning’ for babies is actually more a desensitisation process. Use your forefinger wrapped in the corner of face cloth to rub over the teeth and gums. This can be started even before the first teeth appear.
Supervise toddlers as they chew small toothbrushes, or try 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 the ‘no fight zone’, it is safe to miss an occasional day providing usual dietary guidelines are followed.
Tooth-brushing for toddlers – use a first toothpaste
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 is key for toddlers’ teeth
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 because the liquid contacts the teeth for longer than when drunk from a cup. Therefore, the recommendation that juices only be introduced 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.
Toddlers’ teeth and hidden sugars
Growing toddlers are always hungry, and the 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. 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.
Learning to brush teeth as part of nightly routine is an excellent start to caring for toddler’s teeth. However, it is just as important to consider their teeth when filling bottles and packing or buying snacks.