If you have a toddler, then their gummy smile should be filled with pearly whites any day now. As a parent, it is your job to protect these teeth with regular brushing, flossing, and a healthy diet. Currently, 20% of 2-3 year olds have an untreated cavity, which can cause pain and premature tooth loss, resulting in problems with your child's adult teeth.
Because you love your child, you purchase them a proper baby and toddler tooth brush, you take them to the dentist when their first tooth comes in, and you discuss whether or not they need toothpaste (some babies do, but most do not). Then, when you put your finger in their mouth they either clam up, not allowing you access, or clamp down on the brush or your finger. What can you do to communicate the importance of oral health care with your little one?
Start As Early As Possible
You should start wiping down your baby's gums after they eat as soon as they are born. You do not need any special equipment to do this. You simply wrap a clean washcloth around your finger and wipe along their gum line. This is especially important in formula fed babies, as formula contains sugars that can stay on the gums an encourage plaque-causing bacteria. More importantly, it gets your baby used to the feeling of having an object in their mouth after every meal.
If you didn't start when your toddler was a newborn, it is not too late to try the following techniques.
Let Them See How You Brush
Toddlers are curious about how adults interact with the world. They see you eat and they want your spoon. They see you on your smartphone and they quickly learn how to swipe to unlock it. The same curiosity can be used to your advantage in oral healthcare. Take your toddler into the bathroom with you and let them see you brushing your teeth. Take the time to explain to them what you are doing. Exaggerate opening your mouth for the brush. By the end of the session, your little one should be clamoring for the experience.
Let Them Play With The Brush
Toddlers can shut down when they are faced with something new, or they can get so excited that they are difficult to interact with. To prevent this, give your toddler plenty of time to play with their toothbrush. As long as they can hold a spoon while eating, they can safely put a toddler toothbrush in their mouth with supervision. Let your toddler play with his or her brush for a few minutes, and then ask for the brush, congratulate them when they give it to you, and start brushing.
Make It Part of a Routine
Most toddlers behave better when they know what to expect. If you brush their teeth after every feeding, or when they are in the bathtub, or before bed every night, it will become something that they expect. After a week of following your routine, your toddler will know exactly what to do when the toothbrush comes out.
Make It a Game
Just like you can pretend that your child's spoon is an airplane, you can make up fun games with their toothbrush. Try having a specific tooth brushing song that you sing every time you brush your child's teeth. As they grow, the song will help them learn how to brush their own teeth.
If you have an uncooperative toddler, you should not force toothbrushing, as you do not want them to become anxious about dental care. Instead, do another activity and come back to toothbrushing when they are calm and cooperative.
For more tips, contact an experienced dentist.