New Parent's Guide to Toddler Oral Care

Dental Health
By: Spirit Dental
June 6, 2018

Dad with son sitting on his shoulders

First-time parents are often focused on the oral care that they need to provide to their babies. But what about when your baby has grown into a toddler?

It turns out that toddler oral care is also extremely important and shouldn’t be neglected. To learn about what it takes to ensure your child’s mouth can be clean and healthy, keep reading for a few simple guidelines that you can follow.

Teething: Here’s What You Should Expect

Once your baby is roughly 6 months old, his or her teeth will start poking through. More and more teeth will continue growing in until your child is around 3 years old. But even though this is adorable from your perspective, it could cause a few uncomfortable symptoms for your child.

What are the teething symptoms that you should keep an eye out for? Well, because teething could cause your toddler’s gums to become tender, your child might be irritable and upset. Your toddler might even lose sleep, start eating less, and start drooling more too.

A fussy toddler might be a teething toddler, but there are steps that you can take to help your little one feel much better. For example, you could purchase a teething ring, put it in the freezer until it’s nice and cold, and then apply it to your child’s gums gently. Your toddler might also feel some relief if you use your finger to gently rub his or her gums. And when those options don’t work as well as you’d like, you might consider the use of pain relieving gels designed for teething toddlers—just talk to your pediatrician for advice first.

1. Set the Foundation for Brushing Twice Daily

Did you know that tooth decay could develop as soon as your baby’s very first tooth erupts from the gums? Crazy, right?!

As more teeth grow in, it will be time to teach your toddler about the importance of maintaining a brushing schedule. You could certainly brush your toddler’s teeth until he or she is old enough to do so without your assistance. Also, use this time as an opportunity to teach your child that this daily routine shouldn’t be missed.

Experts recommend using a child-size, soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, but you just need a tiny amount (we’re talking the size of a grain of rice) for your toddler. Once your child is at least 3 years old, he or she can graduate to using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Be sure to teach your toddler to avoid swallowing the toothpaste as you work on showing him or her how to brush every surface of the teeth for the ultimate clean and the freshest breath.

2. Flossing Is Always a Great Idea!

In addition to getting your toddler used to brushing his or her teeth twice a day, it’s also a fantastic idea to teach your child about the importance of flossing.

You could floss your toddler’s teeth before or after brushing. There are child-friendly flossing tools that you can purchase in order to make the experience easier on yourself, as well as more comfortable for your toddler. And, as with brushing, once your son or daughter learns how to go about it alone, you can simply supervise to make sure it’s done right.

3. Thumb Sucking Is a Big No-No!

Your toddler might continue finding comfort in sucking his or her thumb or a pacifier, but this isn’t a habit that you should condone. Sucking could lead to problems that impact the jaw and the mouth, and it could even ruin the position of your toddler’s teeth, resulting in the need for braces. Therefore, the sooner you teach your toddler that thumb sucking is a big no-no, the better.

How can you gently teach your child that thumb sucking, despite being comforting, isn’t such a good idea? Well, experts recommend using positive reinforcement by praising your toddler when he or she isn’t sucking on a pacifier or a finger.

You could also try applying a yucky tasting remedy to your child’s finger (your pediatrician could direct you towards the right product for your toddler). And it’s also a good idea to figure out what’s causing your child’s anxiety so that you can target the problem and eliminate the thumb sucking behavior.

4. Try to Make Seeing the Dentist a Positive Experience

Ah, your child’s first trip to the dentist. This could be a daunting experience for you, as well as a terrifying experience for your toddler, so you might be tempted to just put it off. But that would be a bad idea.

Generally, experts recommend taking children to the dentist after the first tooth erupts and no later than a baby’s first birthday. Ultimately, making this a positive experience is key, and you can do that by having an upbeat attitude about the dentist, as doing so might help your toddler feel more at ease.

During the appointment, the dentist will be able to thoroughly examine your toddler’s mouth to ensure proper development, and you can ask all of the questions that you might have about children’s oral health and hygiene. Then, when it’s all done, you can reward your toddler with a fun experience or a yummy, healthy treat to prove that going to the dentist isn’t so bad after all.

A Few Extra Tips

Here are a few extra tips that you can keep in mind to keep your toddler’s mouth clean and healthy:

  • Baby bottle decay is a term used for the tooth decay that occurs when a toddler is allowed to take a nap while holding a bottle of milk, formula, or juice in his or her mouth. These sugary beverages will feed bacteria and spur the development of decay. Yikes! So, if your child really wants a bottle before bed, fill it with water instead.
  • A sippy cup is a convenient tool that you can use to always have a beverage handy for your toddler when you’re out and about, as well as when you’re at home. Unfortunately, letting your child drink from a sippy cup throughout the day could also contribute to tooth decay, particularly if you’re filling the cup with a sugary beverage.
  • Speaking of sugary drinks, toddlers often like to drink juice, but too much of it could lead to tooth decay. Simply limiting your toddler’s intake to 4 ounces or less per day is a good first step, and making sure you only serve 100% fruit juice is another smart move.  

Taking Care of Toddler Teeth Isn’t So Hard After All!

Good habits start early, even when it comes to keeping teeth and gums sparkling clean. So, once all of those pearly whites start showing up, taking the time to teach your toddler about the importance of brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist is highly recommended.

Once you know what to expect as your toddler grows, you’ll be even more confident when it comes to making sure you’re doing everything possible to ensure your child will have a beautiful and healthy smile.


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