Caring for Your Child’s Teeth: The Toddler Years

toddlerteethSo you've made it through your baby's teething stage and you're now the proud parent of a toddler. And that mouth full to teeth! Momentous. Now it's time to learn how to take care of those teeth. True, they're just temporary "baby" teeth, but you're setting the stage for your kids' oral health for the rest of their life. Here's what you should know about caring for your toddler's teeth

  • Time for the First Dentist Visit

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    Your child should have their first visit to the dentist by the time she's a year old. The American Dental Association says it should be within six months after your child's first tooth appears. This first visit is just to make sure everything is growing fine and to get your child familiar with the dentist just like they're familiar with their pediatrician. Your dentist will also talk to you about the best way to care for your child's teeth and gums. The American Dental Association has tips for making these first dentist appointments positive.

  • Brush the First Tooth

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    You should start brushing as soon as you see that first tooth, even if you're just using a washcloth. Brush twice a day with a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. As for flossing, that starts as soon as you have two teeth touching each other, every day. Take good care of these baby teeth -- healthy baby teeth set the stage for healthy adult teeth. Use fluoridated toothpaste. Look for toddler-sized toothbrushes for little mouths. Teach your toddler how to brush, but you'll still need to do most of that brushing and flossing yourself until your child is around six years old. 

  • Brushing Tip

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    I learned a brushing tip from a dentist. You want to brush from all angles to get all of that tooth. But at the end, brush each tooth down from gum to crown, just like you'd sweep dust from a corner into your dust pan. After I tried this, I couldn't believe how much cleaner my teeth felt. And remember: No eating or drinking anything but water after that bedtime teeth brushing!

  • Control That Sippy Cup

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    It's time to quit the bottle. Definitely don't send your toddler to sleep with a bottle, even if it's filled with milk. And keep an eye on the sippy cup. Toddlers who spend the day sipping from a sippy cup filled with juice are just cultivating tooth decay. Treat drinks like any other food: Drink while thirsty, and then brush immediately after. Better yet, try not to give your toddler juice or other sugary beverages much at all.

  • Quit the Binky by Three

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    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning your child from the binky by the age of three. I know. Easier said than done. Don't be afraid to call in the help of a specialist.

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