When your toddler reaches the age of 18 months and her back molars are in, it’s time to pull out the toothpaste and get brushing! Parents should begin by brushing her teeth twice a day with warm water or non-fluoride toothpaste. Brush her tongue too if she’ll let you. This will dislodge the germs that cause bad breath.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends waiting until your daughter is at least two to use fluoride toothpaste. So until that time, use specially formulated “toddler” toothpaste without fluoride. When it’s time for fluoride, make sure she only uses a pea-sized drop on her tooth brush. Swallowing too much fluoride can lead to a condition called fluorosis.
Each child approaches things differently. Some children enjoy brushing while others dread the ritual. Check out the tips below for some creative and fun alternatives to spice-up your brushing routine.
Your Guide to Terrific Teeth:
• Make it Elmo time. Purchase a character toothbrush. Let your daughter pick out a princess, Elmo, or other fun character to help scrub away those cavity bugs!
• Try totally cool toothpaste. As with the toothbrush, pick out cool toothpaste for your daughter. If she’s using a fluoride toothpaste, there are many yummy tasting character toothpastes available. Just be sure to only purchase fluoride toothpaste if she is at least 2 years old.
• Let her try. Some toddlers operate best when they are in control. Let her be a “big girl” and brush her teeth on her own. Then, you can brush them when she’s done.
• Conquer the cavity bugs. Talk with her about her teeth. It’s alright to let her know that you need to brush her teeth to get the “cavity bugs” off. Sometimes this method works to entice her to brush. Just don’t scare her. She doesn’t need to hear horror stories about what can happen if she doesn’t brush.
• Giggle. Toddlers love to play games, so make it fun. Practice making funny faces in the mirror while she brushes or tickle her tongue with the toothbrush. The more she enjoys it, the easier it will be to brush those choppers.
• Trade places. Allow her to brush your teeth first, and then brush hers. By taking turns, she’ll feel “all things are equal” and see that brushing her teeth can be fun. Plus, you’ll get your teeth brushed too!
• Time for the dentist. Usually, it’s recommended that your child make her first visit to the dentist around 3 years old. Routine trips to the dentist throughout your child’s life are very important for good oral hygiene and gum disease prevention. She should go two times a year. This is also a good time for parents to talk with their dentist about any oral concerns they may have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Elizabeth Donovan, M.A. is the founder of ParentingPink.com and has worked as an adolescent mental health therapist/supervisor for nearly a decade. Areas of expertise include: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Conduct Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Anxiety, Depression, and Sexual Assault/Trauma. A few years ago she gave up her full-time job as a psychotherapist to be a stay-at-home mom to her three little girls. Ms. Donovan’s articles have been published in several magazines including: Parenting, BabyTalk, Guideposts Sweet Sixteen, and Listen. She also provides expert parenting advise to various media outlets.
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