Tips to take care of toddler teeth

If you celebrate Easter, it is certainly an exciting time for kids – not only is there the excitement of seeing the Easter Bunny, but egg hunts are sure to get the giggles and fun going. And of course, who could forget the delicious sweets and chocolates. Chocolate, chocolate everywhere! And while certainly faces and hands are meant to be dirty – after all the fun – toddler teeth should not – and as such, it becomes essential to ensure that your toddlers have good brushing behaviour now, which establishes healthy habits for life.

A healthy pregnancy contributes to a child’s dental care because toddler teeth begin to form before birth. If you are pregnant, make sure to eat a balanced, nutritious diet and get an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. It’s also important for pregnant women to have a complete dental exam and have any cavities or gum disease treated.

Caring for your baby’s mouth in the beginning is not as important, but as soon as the teeth erupt, dental care should start. Many toddlers experience dental decay because of the sugary content of the bottle.

Caring for your mouth is as important as caring for the rest of your body, but getting your kids to brush twice a day can be difficult until the ages of 5 – 8 because they lack the motor skills to perform the activity without difficulty.

As such, there has been a move towards more interactive fun for better brushing (tooth brushing games). Innovation plays a huge part in teaching kids about oral care through play and providing exciting rewards for a job well done – which is sure to keep them brushing better for longer. In fact, there are tools available and coming to South Africa soon that not only ensure that the kids learn while having fun, but parents get to see how well their kids are doing in between check-ups – it’s a win-win for healthy growing smiles.

So take care of those smiles with these tips to take care of toddler teeth

  • Do not let toddlers sleep with a bottle that contains sugary drinks. In fact, use a sippy cup instead and give them water between meals.
  • Get the right size toothbrush – a long handle may be needed if they are a little reluctant to open their mouths wide.
  • Sing a song, tell a story or make tooth brushing fun if your baby has developed the shut-mouth-syndrome.
  • Replace the toothbrush regularly, every 3 – 4 months.
  • Make sure that you know the right technique of tooth brushing because your child will follow your example.
  • When they are younger you can brush their teeth by standing behind them or having them sit on your lap. As they get older they will naturally want to brush themselves – just make sure that they are brushing properly.
  • Let them stand on a step or stool to face the mirror and do not forget to teach them to brush their tongue as well as it is a popular hiding place for bacteria
  • Do not, I repeat, do not dare forget the right flavour of toothpaste. Expecting a bubble gum flavour and ending up with strawberry will make the whole exercise a disaster (for you and your little one)
  • Flossing should be started and tried with every brushing effort, and it is important that you lead by example
  • In South Africa, we usually do not need to add fluoride to the water


So, what to do about the sugary snacks?

  • Sugar is our new (delicious) enemy; and is linked to childhood obesity and tooth decay.
  • Limit the frequency of sugary and acidic snacks not only between meal-times but try and limit it to special occasions.
  • Make water the main fluid drink from a young age as it maintains hydration and saliva flow to help neutralise bacterial acids. Keep in mind that the salt (sodium) content of bottled water may be too high for your child, so check the labels.
  • Even natural sugars (e.g. found in fruits) are able to feed decay-causing bacteria so beware of these and look for dental-friendly alternative snacks such as cheese.
  • Make sure your kids use protective sports or protective equipment to reduce the risk of facial injuries. I know, getting them to wear it may be difficult, but trust me, the orthodontic accounts after injury will make life difficult for all.

Finally, although daunting, annual visits to the dentist are very important. Choose your dentist wisely, the time of choosing an intimidating non-child lover, is long gone!

Experts recommend that your child see a dentist by their first birthday. Babies with dental problems caused by injury, disease, or a developmental problem should be seen by a children’s (pediatric) dentist right away. If these dental problems are not limited to the surfaces of the teeth, your baby should also be seen by a children’s doctor (pediatrician) or your family doctor.

You want to keep your little one’s smile bright and their body healthy and taking care of toddler teeth is a critical component here. So what are you waiting for – get those Easter eggs hunts going and get brushing!

*This article is an exclusive column from Dr Diana Du Plessis, spokesperson for Philips Mother and Child Division.

Dr Diana du Plessis

Dr. Diana du Plessis is the Breastfeeding Consultant and spokesperson for Phillips Avent South Africa. She obtained a B.Soc.Sc (Hons) at the University of the Free State, after which she worked as an operating room registered nurse in the Universitas and National Hospitals in Bloemfontein, receiving the Diploma in Operating Room Technique in 1978. She commenced her academic career in the Department of Nursing (UFS) in 1982 and holds diplomas in Nursing Administration (cum laude), Nursing Education and Community Health Nursing (cum laude) while being employed in the Department of Nursing at the University of the Free State. Later she obtained M.Cur and D.Cur in Midwifery and Neonatology from the University of Johannesburg. Dr du Plessis is in private midwifery clinical practice for the past 19 years.

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