Caring for your child’s teeth, a parent’s guide to prevention and cleaning for toddlers and children

When your child is a newborn, it’s all about diapers, bottles, formula and endless sleepless nights. Your baby depends on you to keep her safe, warm and nourished. However, as your baby develops, she will become more independant and her needs will change. Usually, the eruption of the first teeth at around 1 year of age heralds the transition from infanthood to the toddler years. It is at this time that caring for your child’s teeth and gums becomes especially important.

Before your child starts teething, you can actually begin to wipe their gums with a warm washcloth to wash away debris from food or formula. This will get a child used to having their mouths cleaned and they will be less likely to protest when you introduce a brush and paste. However, it’s never too late to begin a good oral hygiene routine.

If your child is old enough, allow them to pick out their own toothbrush and toothpaste in a color and flavour that they prefer in order to make brushing their teeth more fun. Some people are hesitant to use fluoride toothpaste on their young ones’ teeth. Rest assured that the small amount of fluoride in toothpaste is safe, as long as it’s not ingested. Err on the side of caution by selecting a toothpaste that is specially formulated for kids and approved of by the Canadian Dental Association. Only use a pea-sized amount or less if the child does not have a full mouth of teeth. Monitor the child to make sure he or she does not swallow any toothpaste. Some parents have a little song that they sing or play while the child is brushing to help the child know how long to keep brushing for. It’s good to brush your child’s teeth for them or monitor them while brushing until you feel that they are mature enough to do a good job by themselves.

Establishing a good home care routine for your child’s teeth is a great first step. We also recommend bringing children in for their first dental visit soon after their first teeth start erupting. This will not only provide an opportunity for the dentist to make sure that teeth are coming in properly and to catch any potential problems, but will also help your child feel comfortable being in the dentist’s chair later on in life. It’s a good idea to start bringing your child in every six months for a regular checkup and cleaning once all the baby teeth have erupted. You can support your child in maintaining lifetime of good oral health by establishing healthy routines now.

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