Toddlerhood is when you set the foundations for child dental health. Your little one’s teeth are new and white, and you might be tempted to think that they can be pretty much left; after all, in just about four years they will start falling out and getting replaced. But dental health is important even during the toddler years. You’re giving your child the habits that will last him a lifetime. What’s more, these baby teeth are the foundations for the new teeth that will come in. If these teeth rot before their time, the teeth that follow will not be able to find their proper places and your child is likely to face a host of dental issues as he or she grows.
What are the keys, then to child dental health? There are two main pillars:
• Regular, thorough dental hygiene
• A healthy-tooth diet: high in calcium, high in fiber, low in sugar
We’ll look at these two areas in detail now.
Dental hygiene means brushing your child’s teeth regularly; twice a day is a good habit. Have your child brush his teeth after breakfast, and then again after dinner or just before bed. It’s also a good idea to have your child brush his or her teeth after eating an especially sticky sweet treat, like a Snickers bar or saltwater toffee.
When your child brushes his teeth make sure he gets all the surfaces: back, front, and tops, and that he uses a up and down motion. Toddlers love to ‘do it myself!’ but often can’t do a very good job. You should brush your toddler’s teeth first yourself thoroughly; then give him the toothbrush and let him finish.
Use only a very small amount of toothpaste, as larger amounts of fluoride or other chemicals contained in toothpaste can be dangerous to small children. It’s best to use children’s toothpaste, though if you don’t have any you can use a very small amount of your regular brand.
There are two aspects of a healthy-tooth diet: foods that make your teeth strong, and foods that make your teeth clean.
For strong teeth your child needs a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D. He can get this by drinking lots of milk, as well as by eating yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products.
For clean teeth your child needs a diet rich in fiber, low in sugars, and especially low in—or lacking-- sticky sweets and soft drinks. Soft drinks and candy should not be regular fare for your child; save them for very, very special occasions. Some kinds of natural sugar are okay though; apples, for instance, are wonderfully good both at cleaning and whitening teeth. Gnawing on them is giving your child’s teeth quality therapy time.
What role does a dentist play in your child's dental health? He’s mostly there to check that you’re doing everything right, encourage you in good dental hygiene, and take care of any problems.
The likeliest problem your toddler will encounter is cavities. If your child does get a cavity, in spite of all you’ve done to prevent it, you will need to discuss with your dentist whether to get it filled. Pulling baby teeth is sometimes necessary but usually undesirable, as it messes up the blueprint plan for the placement of adult teeth.