Think toddler age is too young for dental care? Think again! The toddler time can be crucial to their dental development, read on for ways you can make sure your little one’s teeth are healthy and strong.
Snacking and Sippy Cups
Your child’s diet is important in preventing a cavity. Every time kids eat or drink something that contains sugar or starches, bacteria in their mouths use the sugar and starch to produce acids. These acids begin to eat away at the tooth’s enamel.
Toddlers can sometimes be picky eaters, and can be prone to frequent snacking, a handful of goldfish crackers here, some apple slices there. Saliva can help fight off this acid attack from snacking, but if you have a frequently snacking toddler the repeated acid attacks will cause the tooth to lose minerals and eventually develop a cavity. So remember to keep an eye on not just what your toddler eats, but on how often they eat as well.
Sippy cups can be another source of trouble. It’s best to avoid using sippy cups as a pacifier or allowing kids to sip on them throughout the day unless they are filled with water. Spout sippy cups filled with milk, juice or juice drinks, allow sugar (even natural sources) to stay in the mouth longer and increase the risk of tooth decay.
Traditional sippy cups are only supposed to be used as a short transition to real cups, and overuse of them can cause more than dental caries, they can also contribute to speech difficulties.
Because children suck on sippy cups the way they do bottles, if used too long, it can change the position of the tongue and teeth, potentially causing lisps and articulation problems. The traditional spout style sippy should only be used for about a month. Using cups with a straw are much better for speech development and dental health.
Brushing and Flossing
Kids don’t have the motor skills to brush their teeth on their own till they between five and eight years old, so make sure you’re the chief tooth brusher for your toddler and aim for the full two minutes, and stick to water only or fluoride-free training toothpaste until your child can be trusted not to swallow it.
Don’t forget to floss! Although flossing a toddler’s teeth can seem like a daunting task, teaching the fundamentals for flossing is important to help kids get in the healthy habit once they can do it on their own. For early flossing sessions, sit your toddler on your lap, facing you. Floss their teeth as you would your own, using your index fingers and thumbs to guide floss gently in between the teeth. Slide the floss up and down against the tooth surface and (carefully) under the gum line, flossing each tooth with a clean section. You probably won’t be able to get to all those teeth, most kids can’t last through a flossing session without at least a little fidgeting, and that’s just fine. Focus on the molars first (if there are any) and work your way from the back of their mouth to the front. Make sure no food or drink, except water, is permitted until the next morning after brushing at bedtime. This allows clean teeth to re-mineralize during the night, from the minerals in the saliva and toothpaste.
If you follow these tips your toddler will be well on their way to healthy teeth. Make sure to ask your dentist any questions you may have during your next visit. Need a bedtime story to get your kiddo excited about their next trip to see us? Click here for a list of fun books to try out after brushing before bed!