At some point your little toothless butter ball is going to sprout some teeth. Toddlers teeth appear in a fairly predictable pattern: two on the bottom in front, four on the top in front, two more on the bottom front, four molars two on top and two on the bottom, four canines two on top and two on bottom, and finally four more molars. From the time that your baby's first tooth sprouts it is time to start implementing oral care. For the first six months or so, after those first couple of teeth show up, a washcloth dipped in a weak mixture of water and baking soda should be enough to combat any type of decay. However, at some point you will need to introduce the toothbrush in order to continue to maintain good oral hygiene for your toddler. Here are a few more helpful ideas for getting the most out of your little beavers tooth brushing routine.
1. Get an electric toothbrush.
It may seem a bit extravagant, but for your toddler it will make brushing his teeth a lot more fun. A regular tooth brush is fine if you can't afford or find an electric one, but it has a lot of drawbacks. Firstly, your little grin master will only let a foreign object which is under your control in his mouth for a very limited time, so getting to all the teeth and brushing them thoroughly will be harder. Also, your toddler will quickly lose interest in the idea of using the regular toothbrush as a tooth-cleaning tool and will begin to think of it as a funny spoon that is for feeding him baby toothpaste, which kind of defeats the purpose. And finally, the struggles that you have over trying to get your little guy to use the regular toothbrush properly might instill a strong aversion to the idea of brushing teeth. An electric model is interesting, fun and easy to use. You can often brush your little chompers teeth in half the time with half the struggle.
2. Teach your toddler to chew gum.
I know that this might sound counter intuitive, and just so we are clear I'm not talking about huge wads of sugary goo. I'm just talking about huge wads of goo. The American Dental Association has come out in support of sugar free gum, especially gum that contains xylitol. They recommend giving your children gum to chew for about 20 minutes after meals in addition to regular brushing. To teach your toddler how to chew gum, give her a large amount to start with. One and a half sticks should be enough to discourage swallowing without raising the risk of choking. The entire wad should be about the size of your toddlers thumb. After your toddler has gotten the basic idea of chewing without swallowing, you can reduce the amount of gum you give.
3. Offer your toddler a sippy cup of water before bed.
Throughout the day food, milk and juice will leave residue in your toddlers mouth. Even if you brush once in the afternoon and once at bedtime the food and drink particles in your little nibbler's mouth can do some damage during the rest of the day. Having some water will help rinse away most of those harmful little tooth destroyers. I recommend giving your toddler a sippy cup of water in the morning and in the afternoon. Not only is drinking water a great habit for preventing tooth decay, but the health benefits of drinking water throughout the day will have lasting positive effects in all aspects of your toddlers development.
4. Sing a fun song or rhyme while you brush.
Getting your toddler to spend an appropriate length of time scrubbing his chompers can be very difficult. A great trick to help extend the time he spends brushing his teeth is to sing a little song or recite a rhyme while he brushes. Having a nice rhythm to brush to helps your toddler grasp the concept of repeated up and down/back and forth brushing. Also, knowing that the song comes to an end will help you little brush man anticipate how long he should brush. Time is still a slippery concept, and after 10 seconds your little fella might feel like he's been at it for hours, but a song or rhyme will keep him going for a few more minutes.
5. Give your toddler a turn.
To make sure your toddlers teeth get sufficiently clean, you should take the first turn with the toothbrush. A quick once-over from you will get the best results, but then turn over the tooth brush to your little chicklet so she can both imitate the example you just set and gain a feeling of personal pride in her ability to brush her teeth by herself. Doing the brushing at the beginning, rather than after your toddler has had a try at it, will help avoid your little bubbie from feeling like she has done something wrong and is being corrected while giving her a good example to follow for her own turn. As she gets better at brushing, you can eventually let her take over and do the whole routine herself.
One of the best ways to save money as your children get older is to eliminate expensive dental bills, and this starts with good oral hygiene habits. Teaching your little sugar-fiend how to care for his teeth early will instill a great sense of awareness that can have lasting positive effects. Remember to talk to your dentist for the latest information on childhood tooth care and to schedule regular checkups for your little snuggle bug. If you have found these tips helpful, please forward them to all the parents of toddlers that you know. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome. Happy parenting!