How Do I Care For My Toddler's Teeth?

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Passing on good oral habits to your child is one of the most important health lessons you can teach them. This means helping him or her brush twice a day, limiting between-meal sweet snacks and seeing your dentist regularly.

Most dentists recommend that children start their dental visits well before the age of two, as soon as teeth begin to erupt. In addition to giving your dentist a chance to monitor your child's dental growth and development, this is your chance to learn about tooth development; the need for fluoride; how to help your child maintain proper oral hygiene; how to deal with your child's oral habits, such as pacifier use; diet and nutrition; and how to prevent oral injuries.

Always emphasise that a dental visit is a positive experience. Explain to your child that visiting the dentist helps maintain good oral health. By fostering a positive attitude, you'll increase the chances that your child will see a dentist regularly throughout life.

What should I do when my toddler's teeth begin to erupt?

Teeth start to erupt at about six months and continue until age three. This causes many children to have tender gums, which can make them irritable. It helps to rub the gums with your finger, a small cool spoon or a frozen teething ring that has been placed in the freezer. There are also pain relief gels and medications available for use when babies are teething. Ask your dentist or doctor about these medications. If your child has a fever when teething, it is best to contact your doctor to rule out the possibility of some other kind of condition.

What is the proper way to brush my toddler's teeth?

It is a good idea to supervise your child's brushing until the age of eight, following the guidelines below:

  • Use a smear or pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Take care that your child does not swallow the paste.
  • Use a toothbrush with soft bristles, brush inside surfaces of all teeth first, where plaque accumulates most. Angle bristles toward the gumline. Use a gentle circular motion at the gumline.
  • Clean all outside surfaces of teeth. Angle bristles toward the gumline. Use a gentle circular motion at the gumline.
  • Place brush so bristles are on the chewing surface of the teeth. Brush gently back and forth.

Is thumb or finger sucking a problem and how can I treat it?

The sucking reflex is normal and healthy in babies. However, a thumb or finger sucking habit can cause problems with the growth of the mouth and jaw, and position of teeth, if it continues after permanent teeth have erupted, between four and seven years of age. Front teeth that point outwards, sometimes called buck teeth, and an open bite may result from habitual thumb or finger sucking. This can cause problems in adulthood that include premature tooth wear, increased dental decay and discomfort on biting. Sucking on pacifiers after permanent teeth have erupted may cause similar problems.

The best way to deal with thumb or finger sucking is through positive reinforcement, not negative words or behaviour. Your child is only doing what feels natural to him or her. Praise your child when he is not sucking his thumb/finger. You can remind your child of the habit by bandaging the thumb/finger, or putting on a sock over his hand at night. Bitter-tasting medication to coat the thumb can also be prescribed by your dentist or doctor.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

Tips on how to make brushing easier for kids

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INFANT ORAL CARE

Overview

While most babies don't start getting teeth until they are around six months old, infant dental care is important from the very beginning. Many dentists recommend an initial visit before the child's first birthday to make sure teeth and gums are cared for and cleaned properly.

It is a good idea to get in the habit of cleaning your baby's gums soon after birth. Although there may be a little fussing at first, your infant will get used to having the mouth cleaned like other parts of the body. Many children grow to enjoy tooth brushing as part of their daily routine.

During your baby’s first year, there are a few conditions to be aware of, including:

Teething

Between 3 and 9 months, your infant's baby teeth will begin to emerge (erupt) into the mouth. Teething may make your child irritable or fussy and may cause restlessness, drooling or loss of appetite. However, it has not been shown to cause any other childhood symptoms.

Baby Bottle Tooth Decay

Baby bottle tooth decay — also called "early childhood dental caries" — is one of the most important issues in infant tooth care. This condition is caused by frequent exposure, over time, to sugary liquids, which can seriously damage a baby’s teeth and overall oral health.

Dummies and Thumb / Finger Sucking

Sucking is a normal part of development that is comforting to children well into their first years of life. In fact, sucking often brings comfort even after a child no longer needs to get nourishment from a breast or bottle. During a child's first few years, sucking habits probably won't damage his or her mouth. But frequent and long-term sucking of a dummy, finger or thumb can cause problems. This is especially true if the habit continues after baby teeth start to fall out.

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How to care for your infant’s first teeth?

As soon as baby teeth erupt, it is important to start taking care of them. Try toothpaste formulated specially for your little ones.