No one likes going to the dentist, okay, almost no one likes going to the dentist. While I love the feeling of freshly polished teeth, I’m not particularly fond of the dentist. My two-year-old however, keeps asking about when it will be his turn to go back to the dentist. Toddler and infant dentistry isn’t something that’s commonly talked about, but is very important for the health of your little ones. Here are some helpful reminders and tips to make sure your little tikes have healthy chompers for years to come!
When it comes to dental concerns and our little ones, we usually focus on teething, and considering that teething is the biggest generational revenge on this planet, is perfectly understandable. However, once those pearly whites make their way on through the gums, the trouble they can get into is only just beginning. Here are some tips to help keep your teeth troubles in the past.
- As soon as those little buggers pop on up, start brushing.
- The ADA recommends using fluoride toothpaste from the get go, but I’m not too thrilled with using fluoride before the child knows to spit the toothpaste out. There are some great “training” toothpastes out there that are fluoride free. These can be a good option, but do check that they are sugar free. For some reason people think brushing your teeth with sugar is a good idea. I really just don’t get that.
- Make brushing fun! One thing that worked for us was to sing a little song while brushing the little guy’s teeth. (“This is how we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is how we brush our teeth every morning and night!”)
- Once they hit the “I do it” phase, let your little guy or gal brush their own teeth and then it’s “Mommy’s turn” and you go back over them to make sure they get really good and clean.
- Make that first dental appointment by their first birthday! The ADA recommends the first appointment to start with the first tooth, but no later than the first birthday. Early appointments should be fun and positive to encourage your child to like going to the dentist. (They can learn to hate it later with the rest of us.)
- Along with keeping that first appointment positive, make going to the dentist something fun and special. We usually try for an 8 am appointment and then go to breakfast afterward. The boys like getting that one-on-one time (no way am I taking two toddlers to the dentist at the same time!) and it makes the whole experience that much more fun!
- Speaking of, time your appointment for when your child will be the most happy and the wait time will be the shortest. Talk to the receptionist about wait times if you’re unfamiliar. Nothing ruins a potentially good experience like a long wait or a toddler coming up on nap time.
- Okay, let’s talk about sugar. For many of my readers this might be a no-brainer but it bears mentioning. Try to limit the sugars your kiddos are eating and drinking. The standard American diet is coated in the stuff and it coats your little one’s teeth too, which leads to cavities and other not so fun stuff. I’m not just talking about candy and soda (but please don’t give your toddler soda ever!), but remember that fruit and dairy also have lots of sugar. While these can be good things for your kiddo to eat, make sure you brush their teeth after sugar heavy meals.
- On the topic of sugar, you want to mindful of weaning out those nighttime feeds around 12-18 months to help prevent the lactose from causing nighttime decay. A pacifier or bottle with plain water can be helpful for little ones that want that sucking motion but still allow you to keep those freshly brushed teeth free from extra sugars.
- Pacifiers, bottles, and fingers- I’m going to leave you with a little guilt-reducing comment on this one. There’s lots of information out there on when you should wean kids from pacifiers, bottles, and sucking on fingers, and it all contradicts! This is one of those areas where as mom or dad, you’ve got to just feel it out and do what seems best for your family. If you’ve already started to take the little one for regular dental visits, your dentist should be able to spot issues from these behaviors in the early stages and help you prevent any significant issues from the sucking behavior. If the sucking isn’t messing with your child’s teeth, do what you feel best in the situation and don’t worry about any one else’s opinions.
So there you have it! I hope that helps you navigate the world of toddler teeth beyond teething. If you’re in the Abilene area, I would recommend Dr. Garrett Turner. He sees both my boys and we’ve yet to have a bad experience.