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Brushing your toddler’s teeth: 5 helpful hints

re-posted from http://familyshare.com/brushing-your-toddlerrsquos-teeth-5-helpful-hintsSubmitted in Baby & Toddler by  on April 07, 2013

I’ll admit I was sort of a slacker. When my toddler daughter cut her first teeth, I didn’t brush them. And when more teeth started coming in, I didn’t brush them. I knew I needed to. Sometimes I tried, but it was always much too difficult. She fought me so much it was hard to put a toothbrush in her mouth.

Finally, I had a bit of a wake-up call when I looked at my daughter’s teeth one day and they didn’t look very clean. They needed to be brushed. So I committed. I was going to brush my daughter’s teeth every day.
Toddlers need the same basic dental hygiene that you do, because tooth decay can happen at a young age. The New York Times reported that dentists nationwide are seeing more and more preschoolers with six to 10 cavities or more, and sometimes general anesthesia is needed in order to work on the children’s teeth. Early childhood caries (or tooth decay) is the most common chronic disease in young children, according to the American Academy of Physicians. So, brushing your toddler’s teeth should be a priority.

Since toddlers aren’t coordinated enough to brush their teeth properly by themselves, they need help.

Here are some hints:

Be consistent. You should brush your toddler’s teeth twice a day — nonnegotiable. When I finally committed to brushing my daughter’s teeth every night as part of her bedtime routine and in the mornings the same time I brushed, my daughter accepted that brushing her teeth was part of life. She stopped struggling so much. Sometimes she even looks forward to it, racing off to the bathroom to get her toothbrush. Some days are better than others, but we keep at it.

Don’t worry about being perfect. There are still times when my daughter fights with me to brush her teeth. And while I keep trying every day, there are some days I have to ease off and only a few teeth get brushed. I figure that’s better than nothing.

Let your toddler help. While my daughter can’t really brush her teeth on her own yet, she can sure try. She loves to do whatever mommy does, so every morning while I brush my teeth, she grabs her toothbrush and joins right in. Even though she mostly just chews and licks the toothbrush instead of actually cleaning teeth, it’s setting a good habit for the future.

Experiment. I’ve tried different tooth brushing positions. Sometimes my daughter stands on a stool, sometimes I hold her in my arms or on my lap, and sometimes we race around the room laughing for a while. You can experiment with different toothpaste flavors and different toothbrushes to find something your toddler is interested in. It may take some time, but be creative and try to figure out what works for you.

Make it fun. I’ve sung to my daughter her favorite songs while brushing her teeth. I’ve made animal sounds. I’ve made the toothbrush into an airplane. She thinks she’s funny when she bites down on the toothbrush so I can’t move it around anymore. I let her do it and laugh with her, because when brushing teeth is fun, teeth get clean.

Check with your pediatrician or dentist about what toothpaste to use. Mine told me I could use a very small amount of fluoridated toothpaste, but fluoride free toothpaste might be better for you. If your toddler hates the taste of toothpaste, you might want to skip it all together.

Most days, I can successfully brush all of my daughter’s teeth and we have a good time. It’s taken a long time to get there. But toddlers need to have good oral health, and that starts when they’re young.

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