If you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll be well aware that you’re in possession of a full-speed-ahead bundle of energy. Getting them to do anything can be a challenge, but when it comes to their oral health, it’s important that you teach them early on that they need to look after their teeth and gums.
Waiting until your child has a full set of teeth before they visit the dentist for the first time might seem sensible, but the general rule of thumb is that this visit should happen by 12 months’ old or when their first tooth becomes visible. Early dental visits will help protect your child from tooth decay by educating you on what you need to do to keep their teeth healthy.
One of the first things your dentist will discuss with you is the importance of teaching you how to brush and floss your child’s teeth. Initially using just cold water on a soft children’s toothbrush, toothpaste can be used from around 18 months of age, you should gently brush each tooth and massage the gum using a soft, circular motion.
And yes, even flossing is necessary as soon as two teeth touch; your dentist can show you the correct technique if you’re not sure. You can make cleaning your toddler’s teeth more fun by creating a brushing game, put on their favourite song or find a toothbrush or toothpaste with a beloved TV character on it.
Kids will often put up a fight when it comes to cleaning their teeth but the reality is if it’s not done regularly, tooth decay can set in, with a host of painful problems resulting, including the removal of teeth in extreme cases.
Along with a twice-daily regime of brushing and flossing, try to limit their consumption of sugary foods and drinks such as lollies, soft drinks, and even savoury biscuits, snack bars and muffins. If you do give your child a snack, it’s best to stick to meal times only and limit grazing, choose unprocessed food like vegetables, cheeses and lean meats.
You can easily check the state of your child’s teeth by lifting their top and bottom lips and checking for white patches, which are the early warning signs for decay, and can be reversed. Grey, brown or black spots indicate more serious decay; in either case, book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.