19 Months to 3 Years
It’s important to maintain a toddler’s health, and that’s why it is recommended that toddlers see a pediatric dentist at minimum every 6 months. These visits put a focus on dental education for parents to help establish proper habits that will prevent cavities and aid in keeping your child pain free. During these visits a parent will often sit with their child during the exam, providing comfort for the toddler and allowing easy demonstration of any concerns or points of discussion.
Studies have shown that the application of fluoride at the dentist every 6 months can help reduce cavities by 75%. During these visits, we try and keep the dental exams and cleanings at a minimal if the child cannot tolerate a full cleaning yet. We will provide a thorough exam with parental help usually not lasting longer than a minute, followed by an application of fluoride. At the end of the visit we ensure that your child receives a balloon and prize to finish the visit with a smile!
Below are some common questions parents have during dental visits with their toddler:
What is the best way to brush my toddler’s teeth?
Use an age appropriate toothbrush with a “smear” of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice. Place your toddler’s head in your lap or have them lay down for ease of viewing all teeth and better control while brushing. Gently move in small circles around your child’s teeth ensuring that gums are gently brushed and that the grooves of the molars when present are fully cleaned out. Overall, the brushing process for toddlers should only last 60-90 seconds.
What if my child has cavities and needs a lot of dental work?
If you feel that your child has cavities or is need of a lot of dental work, please schedule them for a visit for us to evaluate. Even if another dentist has diagnosed cavities it can be helpful to get a second opinion and further ideas on how to treat any issues. It can be surprising how much cooperation we can get by working with a child in the right environment. If the amount of work needing to be done is beyond the child’s ability to cooperate, we have the qualifications and staff privileges to safely provide sedation, or general anesthesia by a board-certified anesthesiologist.
What if my toddler doesn’t let me brush?
Add it to the list of things that toddler doesn’t like but is healthy for them (another joy of parenting)! We would rather insist on brushing and prevention, than insist on fillings. Many toddlers resist, but brushing is something necessary to maintain optimal health. Sit down on the floor, use a tv or phone as a distraction if needed, and place the toddler’s head on your lap or have them laying where you can see their teeth and control their hands. For those particularly athletically gifted toddlers brushing may need to be a two-parent activity for a while. In the end, don’t give up, it will get better!
What are the most important things to do for my toddler’s teeth?
If you follow these 6 simple recommendations, you can help your child maintain healthy teeth:
- If your toddler has given up the bottle yet, be sure that it contains only water at naps and bedtime. Children are most susceptible to cavities during sleep. You can smooth this transition by watering down milk gradually over a week until the bottle contains only water.
- Brush your toddler’s teeth twice daily with a “smear” grain of rice size amount of toothpaste
- Avoid fruit juice outside of mealtimes and limited juice to a maximum of 4 ounces daily per the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
- Take your child to regular dental exams with a pediatric dentist
- Keep your own teeth cavity free with good dental care including regular brushing and flossing to minimize the transfer of cavity causing bacteria to your child.
- As children grow and develop more independence, they may want to brush on their own, or fight tooth brushing. You may allow them to brush on their own, however it is recommended that they do not have any toothpaste when they brush, and that a parent brush thoroughly afterwards. (Children should not brush on their own without supervision until they have coordination to tie their own shoes... usually around 6 years of age).
Should anything be done about their thumb sucking or pacifier?
Pacifier use should begin to be weaned after 6 months of age, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Persistent use of the pacifier after 1 year of age can cause an increased risk for ear infections according to the AAP. Dental changes can begin to form after 1 year of age with pacifiers, however if the habit is stopped shortly thereafter the teeth can correct into a normal healthy position.
Thumb habits can be very tough to break and realistically there is not much that can be down that is both effective and kind, outside of gentle reminders before your child is 3 years of age. We recommend only a lowkey effort with gentle reminders until your child is old enough to benefit from intervention.
What about breastfeeding and decay?
Breast milk contains lactose (sugar), and is associated with tooth decay when children nurse, especially ad libitum at night. Children who have erupted teeth and who nurse for many short periods or stay attached to the mother while they sleep are particularly at higher risk for dental cavities after the first year of life. If you are still nursing your baby you can help reduce your toddler’s chance of developing cavities by limiting the amount of night nursing, keeping your child’s teeth very clean, and reviewing if there are signs of cavities starting to develop with a pediatric dentist.
My toddler doesn’t use a bottle anymore, do they still need dental exams?
YES! Visits to the dentist twice yearly at a minimum decrease the chances for your child to have cavities. These visits build a lot of trust and rapport between the child and a pediatric dentist allowing for them to be comfortable for exams and cleanings on their own at a younger age. These visits can establish dental health that can last a lifetime!
My toddler fell and may have injured their teeth what should I do?
It is very common for toddlers to fall and have accidents that involve injuries to their teeth. Luckily, teeth are very resilient! If the tooth is still in the same position and firm, the tooth is usually ok. Sometimes the fall may even result in blood along the gumline or small "chips" at the biting edge. However, again, if it is still in the same position, the tooth is ok, and you can wait to be seen by a pediatric dentist. It is very important to have a follow-up visit with a pediatric dentist soon after an accident, just to make sure there is nothing serious; or, if you notice a change in the position of the tooth/teeth or any large fractures.
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