Dental Care for Toddlers

Advice to help make sure your toddler's set of pearly whites stay that way.

dental care for toddlersDon’t expect any dental slacking at Montsérrat Bouvier’s house. The Cumberland, Ont., mom and former dentist admits she’s hardcore when it comes to making sure her kids’ teeth are healthy. For starters, she began brushing her twins’ baby teeth with a wet washcloth the moment they erupted. And five years later, she’s still the only one allowed to wield a toothbrush to make sure the job is done right at night.

Chances are, your toddler’s teeth are appearing at a fast and furious pace. So how are you supposed to take care of them? Consider these toothy topics:

When will my child stop teething?
While the average child will get his first teeth between six and nine months, others can sport chompers earlier or later. Your child should brandish a full set of 20 teeth by her third birthday.

Are there any abnormalities I should look out for?
Once your child has teeth, he is susceptible to tooth decay. That’s why it’s important to “lift the lip at least once a month and get a good look in there,” says Florence Wall, a dental hygienist with Dental Public Health of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown. She also suggests starting this monthly perusal as soon as baby (primary) teeth erupt. That way you know what’s normal — and what’s not. Be on the lookout for dull white or brown spots near the gum line, an indication that cavities are imminent.

How should I clean my toddler’s teeth?
Start by using a small, soft toothbrush and simply running it around the teeth, using a gentle circular motion for a minute twice a day. Make sure to reach all the surfaces especially along the gum line. The pre-bedtime toothbrushing session is the most important, says Dr. Diederik Millenaar, a pediatric dentist in Vancouver, because while we’re asleep, the mouth produces less saliva, which keeps it clean. And don’t forget to floss. Even if there seem to be large gaps between teeth at this age, the sooner you start flossing to remove plaque, the more comfortable your kids will be with it.

Should I use toothpaste?
At this age, it’s not important, but some dentists recommend non-fluoride toothpaste if you live in an area that has fluoride in the water like Toronto, and a tiny dab of fluorinated toothpaste for areas without it, such as Vancouver. Ask your local dentist for advice.

When should I book an appointment?
According to the Canadian Dental Association, book an appointment within six months after the first tooth breaks through, or by the time she hits age one. The first visit is mainly used to educate mom and dad and to assess and prevent any future problems. “It’s all about establishing good, healthy habits early,” says Dr. Millenaar.


Kira Vermond is a Guelph, Ont.-based freelance writer whose one-year-old daughter loves having her teeth brushed.

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