Toddlers are like a sponge, soaking up everything they learn about the world around them. That’s why these years are critical when it comes to laying the foundation for a lifetime of good oral hygiene habits. Even better, toddlers are enthusiastic learners—teach them to brush and they’ll brush with gusto! Here are some tips for helping your little one have a bright, healthy smile through their toddler years and beyond.
Establish a Dental Home
“Dental home” is a term we dentists use to describe the relationship between you, your child, and our dental practice. The goal of establishing a dental home is to make our office a familiar, safe place for your child. When dental visits are few and far between, it’s natural that children feel apprehensive about their appointments. With routine dental exams every six months, your child gets to know us and we get to know them. Our office becomes a fun place filled with friendly faces.
As part of this process of establishing a dental home, it’s recommended that children first start seeing the dentist around the age of 12 months or just after their first set of teeth erupt, whichever comes first. Some people wonder why toddlers need to see the dentist—how can they possibly have problems with their teeth yet? Dental visits at this age are less for diagnosing problems and more for giving parents the tools to prevent problems from occurring and establishing that relationship of trust.
Work as a Team
When it comes to brushing your child’s teeth, think of it as a team effort. After those first few teeth emerge, use a soft-bristled or silicone toothbrush to brush your toddler’s teeth with a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste—the size of a grain of rice is all you need. Brush twice a day, every day, to get your little one used to the routine.
As they get older, continue to brush their teeth yourself, then hand over the toothbrush to them and let them give it a try. This helps your toddler take an active role in their dental health and feel empowered. Show them how to reach the backs of their teeth and make a game out of it. Since you’re doing the heavy-lifting, you can let them have fun but use the opportunity to teach them to care for their dental health.
Once your child reaches preschool age, let them take the lead. Have them brush first and then you take your turn making sure their teeth are thoroughly cleaned.
Set a Good Example
“Do as I say, not as I do” is rarely a good parenting strategy for toddlers. You can tell them that it’s important to eat healthy snacks for their teeth, but if they see you sneaking chocolate bars and drinking soda all day, it’s not setting a good example for them. You are your child’s best role model when they are a toddler. When you do all the right things to care for your teeth, it makes it easier for them to make the same choices for themselves.