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 heads water only: If you give your child a bottle or drink before bedtime or naptime, always choose water, never milk or juice.
Pour water only 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 soda pop.)
Serve more healthy foods, fewer sugary treats. By adding foods chock-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 toddler's teeth at least twice daily. (More if necessary.) And please use:
- A brush with extra soft bristles that fits a toddler's mouth
- Mild-flavored fluoridated toothpaste without artificial colors, preservatives, or sodium lauryl sulfate
- A tiny amount of toothpaste: a sliver the size of a rice grain for ages 2 and under, and a pea-sized dab when they develop the skill of spitting out toothpaste, usually around age 3
- Clean gently between your tot's teeth when two of them start touching, usually around age 2 or 3. Waxed floss, floss picks, or interdental cleaners for toddler's mouths work best.
Schedule regular dental appointments for your tike. Your toddler should visit the dentist before you plan a first birthday party. The American Dental Association provides these tips for your little one's first visit:
- Schedule a morning visit when toddlers are usually on their best behavior.
- Accentuate the positive to make the visit anxiety-free.
- Talk to your child about what to expect (again, in an upbeat way) during the dental visit.
During the visit, your dental professionals will:
- Clean your toddler's teeth professionally to ensure all plaque is banished at that time.
- 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 pacifiers.