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It may surprise you to know that even young toddlers can get tooth decay;
however, you can take steps to prevent it.
Brushing your child’s teeth is important, as is making sure their diet is healthy.
You should also practice other healthy habits, such as taking your child to the dentist regularly to help keep their teeth healthy.
Brush your child's teeth twice a day.
Just like you, your toddler needs to brush twice a day;
however, your toddler can’t be trusted to brush their teeth alone, even if they’re going through an independent streak.
Most kids won’t brush thoroughly.
Rather, they’ll stick to the front part of the mouth, ignoring the rest of the teeth, which is why you need to take over.
If your child insists on brushing their own teeth, you can let them, then take a pass at it yourself to make sure you get all their teeth brushed.
Put a small amount of toothpaste on the brush.
You can only use a small amount of toothpaste because kids have a tendency to swallow it, especially if it produces a lot of foam.
Children two and under should have their teeth brushed only with a soft brush and water.
Children between two and six should brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste made specifically for kids.
Make sure you’re also using a toddler-sized toothbrush so it fits your child’s mouth.
Check to see that your toothpaste has fluoride in it, as that helps protect against cavities and tooth decay.
If, for some reason, you don’t have access to children’s toothpaste, then use a dab of regular toothpaste only about the size of half of a pea.
Your toddler’s toothbrush should be replaced every three months.
Have the child lay their head on your lap.
To make it easier, brush your toddler’s teeth on your lap.
You can reach the whole mouth better, making it likelier that all of your child’s teeth will get brushed.
Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line, and brush all of your toddler’s teeth equally, making sure you get the parts of teeth facing inward as well as the parts facing outward.
Move the brush in tiny circles across the teeth, rather than back and forth, as that is better on your child’s gums.
As your child gets used to having you brush their teeth, try doing it with them in front of a mirror so that they can see proper technique.
Hold your child’s hand in yours and guide their brushing so they can also feel what the motions of proper brushing technique feel like.
Make sure you get all the food out of your child’s teeth as you brush.
Singing a little song or telling a story while you brush can help pass the time more quickly.
Teach your child to spit.
When your child turns two (approximately), they should be able to start learning to spit after brushing.
Instruct them to spit in the sink.
You can even show them how to do the behavior.
Don’t let them rinse first, as that will increase the likelihood that they will swallow the toothpaste.
You can have your child rinse after they spit.
Limit snacks that are high in carbohydrates
Foods like crackers and cereals are high in carbohydrates.
They turn into sugars, which can harm your child’s teeth.
Toddlers have a less mineralized enamel than adults, and the risk of cavities is higher.
This is especially true if they eat a lot of sugary foods and don’t have good oral hygiene.
Try limiting how often you give your child these snacks to help cut down on tooth decay.
Also, try to avoid sugary snacks like candy or ice cream.
Keep those as a special treat.
Instead, pick snacks like cheese or avocado slices.
When you do give your child sugary foods, try giving them to your child during a meal.
That way, the sugar is mixed with other foods, causing less harm to your child’s teeth.
If your child does eat sugary snacks, ask them to wash their mouths afterwards to help get rid of the sugar. Brushing is even better.
Skip sugary beverages
You may avoid giving your child candy because you know it can cause problems with their teeth.
You may not know that juice can be just as bad, particularly if your child drinks it often.
Water is a much better choice, as it keeps your child hydrated without soaking their teeth in sugar.
Baby bottle tooth decay is a particular case which may also affect toddlers’ front teeth if they used to drink a lot of milk or sweetened liquids.
One way you can slow down sugar intake is to dilute juice with water.
Discourage all-day snacking
Having a regular snack and meal schedule gives your child times when food is not working on their teeth.
If your child snacks all day long, this causes their mouths to constantly be in an acidic state, which can damage enamel and lead to tooth decay.
Try to space out eating, leaving as long as 90 minutes to two hours between eating.
Take the bottle away at bedtime
Letting your child have a bottle at night means that milk will sit on your child’s teeth.
As it sits on your child’s teeth, it turns to sugar.
Over time, that can lead to tooth decay, even in young children and babies.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle.
In addition, giving your child a bottle at night can lead to choking issues.
Never put sugary drinks in bottles, even during the day.
That allows the drink to sit on your child’s teeth.
Have your child switch to a regular cup.
Switching to a regular cup prevents your child from walking around with a bottle in their mouth.
Constantly having it in their mouth leads to sugar staying on their teeth if they’re drinking a sugary drink.
By about one year of age, your child should be using a normal cup if possible.
Skip sugaring the pacifier.
Some parents like to add honey or sugar to their child’s pacifier to make it more attractive for the child; however, doing so leaves sugar on your child’s teeth, which can lead to tooth decay.
It’s best to skip this practice altogether and just give your child a regular pacifier.
Have your child drink water with fluoride
While some activists have questioned the importance of fluoride in water, fluoride is an important component in keeping your child’s teeth healthy, and just brushing with it won’t do it.
Your child also needs to get it from other sources, such as from drinking tap water.
In the past, most cities put fluoride in the tap water, but some have stopped adding it, so check with your public water system to find out.
In addition, you will want to ask about the percentage of fluoride to make sure it is not too high — check with your dentist to learn what is an appropriate amount for your child.
If your child doesn’t get it from tap water, your dentist should have fluoride supplements that can be taken instead.
Fluoride is beneficial only in certain quantities — it is possible for your child to get too much fluoride, which can cause dental fluorosis, harming developing permanent teeth.
Don't share utensils or toothbrushes.
Everyone has different germs in their mouths that cause tooth decay, and you can pass those germs to your kids; therefore, it’s important that you don’t share items with your kids that go in your mouth, such as spoons, toothbrushes, and forks.
Take your toddler to the dentist frequently
Just like adults, children should go to the dentist often, usually twice a year, though some kids may need to go every three months.
Find a kid-friendly dentist who will work with your child even if they have fears about going to the dentist.
Consider asking other parents with kids who they use.
Your child’s first dental visit should be at about six months, or when your child gets their first tooth, so you may be able to wait up to a year in some cases.
One way to help calm a child’s fears about the dentist is to let the child know you will stay in the exam room with them the whole time.
Hold their hand to feel safe during the consultation and make their experience easier.
If the dentist will not allow you to be in the room with your child, then choose a different dentist.
If your child is afraid, talk to them about what exactly they’re afraid of.
Once you know what’s causing their fears, you can help find a way for them to deal with them.
Ask about sealants.
Your child’s dentist can put sealants on their teeth to help protect them from bacteria.
Ask your dentist if they provide this service.