Prevention: How to Cavity-Proof Your Toddler's Teeth
To prevent tooth decay in your toddler's mouth, the secret is to reduce the amount of time their teeth are exposed to decay-causing, acid-forming sugars. Here are some actions you can take.
Give sleepy children water only: If you give your child a bottle or drink before bedtime or naptime, always choose water, never milk or juice.
Only pour water into sippy cups and carry-around bottles. Of course, you want to provide your growing child with the nutrients in milk and juices. But it's best you only serve those liquids during mealtimes when your child will drink them within a limited time – rather than sip them slowly throughout the day. (Same goes for any sugary or acidic drinks. And please avoid sugar-filled, acid-packed fizzy drinks.)
Serve more healthy foods, fewer sugary treats. By adding foods full of vitamins and minerals to mealtimes and snack times, you'll significantly and positively impact your child's oral health.
And limit candy, other sugary foods, and carbohydrates to special times when your toddler can enjoy them right away – not suck or chew them for long stretches of time.
Establish an oral health care routine. Definitely brush your toddler's teeth after eating sugary foods, but also make sure you take care of their teeth daily. Here's a great routine you can make loads of fun with songs and games:
- Brush your child’s teeth or help them brush their teeth at least twice daily. (More if necessary.) Supervise your child until they are at least age 7 to make sure they are doing a good job and not swallowing toothpaste. And please use:
- A brush with extra soft bristles that fits a toddler's mouth.
- Mild-flavoured fluoridated toothpaste without artificial colours or preservatives.
- The right amount of toothpaste: a sliver the size of a rice grain of toothpaste containing no less than 1000 ppm fluoride for ages 3 and under, and a pea-sized dab of toothpaste with more than 1000 ppm fluoride from ages 3 to 6 once your child has developed the skill of spitting out toothpaste.
- Clean gently between your child's teeth when two of them start touching, usually around age 2 or 3. Get your child to spit out the toothpaste after brushing and don’t let them rinse with water as this will wash away the fluoride.
Schedule regular dental appointments for your child. Your toddler should visit the dentist before you plan a first birthday party. The NHS provides these tips for your little one's first visit:
- Start taking your child to the dentist as soon as their milk teeth come in so they can get used to being in the dentist’s surgery.
- Accentuate the positive to make the visit anxiety-free.
- Try to make your child's trip to the dentist a fun experience so they won't be concerned about future visits.
During the visit, your dental professionals will:
- Catch and treat any dental issues sooner than later.
- Listen to you as you tell them about your toddler's oral routine, habits, and concerns.
- Advise you on additional oral care practices, teething issues, and preventive measures such as sealants and fluoride treatments.
- Recommend ways to stop toddler habits, such as thumb-sucking and depending on dummies.