The Tooth-y Two’s: How to Care for Your Toddler’s Teeth

Ahhh, the terrific two’s. (That is the saying, right?)

By now your child is sprouting some pearly whites, you’ve already been in to see the dentist a couple of times, and you’re engaged in the full-on battle of brushing each and every day. Keep it up, Mom & Dad!  Sometimes the tears can be a bit discouraging (theirs AND yours), but you’re doing the right thing.

Here are a few reminders for your child’s oral hygiene.

How should I brush my toddler’s teeth?

Just like you, a toddler should be brushing for 2 minutes twice a day.  More accurately, YOU should be brushing their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day.  Children don’t quite have the manual dexterity to brush their own teeth for a few years yet.

Using a smear of fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, brush in small, circular movements until all traces of food are gone.  If you let your child brush their own teeth, make sure to finish up the job for them.

(And if they absolutely won’t let you do it without a huge battle, here are some tips for getting them to play along.)

Should my child be using fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and makes teeth more resistant to acids and harmful bacteria. Adult toothpastes and most municipal water contain some amount of fluoride.

Call your local water authority or ask your dentist about fluoride in your water.  If you use well water, buy a test kit from a hardware store to determine the fluoride level in your water supply. If it’s anything less than .3 parts per million, ask your pediatrician about a supplement.

Although fluoride is good for your teeth, swallowing too much of it over time leads to a condition called fluorosis that causes white spots on adult teeth. Until your child can spit out the toothpaste after brushing, use toothpaste without fluoride.  When your child starts using toothpaste with fluoride, use only a pea-sized amount.

How can I keep my toddler’s teeth healthy?

Keeping your child’s teeth healthy depends as much on what you allow them to eat as how you brush them.  Sweets and sugary snacks alter the acidity of their mouth, which causes tooth decay and cavities.  These foods should be kept to an absolute minimum.

When your child is indulging in sweets, try to keep it to once a day. If sugary snacks are consumed regularly throughout the day, their mouth will be under attack from the acid for hours at a time.