If you want your child to grow up with healthy teeth and gums, you should start teaching and practicing good dental care when they are still toddlers. Children usually begin to teethe between 12 and 18 months and should be taken to the dentist from the moment that first tooth erupts.
Along with a dentist visit, there are several other steps you can take at home to ensure that your toddler’s gums and teeth are clean and healthy:
1. Keep your toddler’s mouth debris-free
Babies and toddlers eat food that is mushy and often very sticky, which can cause build-up, attract bacteria and lead to eventual soreness. Wrap sanitary gauze around your forefinger, dip it clean water and then gently wipe your child’s gums clean of any leftover food. Do this after each meal so that no food remains in their mouth.
2. Avoid “baby bottle decay”
It’s common for parents to put their toddlers to bed or down for a nap with a bottle, but this is actually destructive for their gums and developing teeth. The sugar from breast milk, juice, formula and cow’s milk will cling to their teeth, leading to infection and pain. If you have a toddler who insists on a bedtime bottle, fill it with water instead of milk or juice.
3. Teach good habits
You should start brushing your children’s teeth as soon as they emerge. Make sure to use only a small amount of unfluoridated toothpaste on an infant toothbrush. You can also start flossing when two or more teeth touch each other. Flat, wide dental tape is perfect for the large spaces between young children’s teeth.
4. Use a clean pacifier
A pacifier is a great source of comfort for a toddler, but can also be a greater source of bacteria and germs. Sanitize pacifiers by boiling them for a few minutes or running them through the dishwasher. Never use your own saliva to clean the pacifier, as this transmits more oral germs into their mouth, and avoid dipping the pacifier in any sugary liquids.
5. Control sugary drinks from a sippy cup
To avoid tooth decay, children shouldn’t drink more than four ounces of juice a day. Sugary drinks and foods should not be consumed throughout the day, but used as special treats. Give your child mostly water, and sometimes milk, throughout the day to avoid sugary buildup.
Make sure your child knows about good oral health from an early age to prevent cavities and other problems in the future. To schedule your toddler’s first dentist appointment with Dr. Dixon, call Bear Creek Pediatric Dentistry in Medford, Oregon.