Keep their little toothie pegs in tip-top condition...
From toothbrush techniques and toddler toothpaste to happier tooth brushing, it’s all here…
At a glance
- What you'll need to care for their teeth
- How to brush their teeth
- What they should eat and drink
Most toddlers have started the teething process by 12 months. However, the molars – the large teeth at the back of the mouth – arrive a little later. The first molars usually appear around 12-16 months, with the second molars following at 20 months to two and a half years. If they’ve (again) started showing signs of teething there are plenty of products, medicines and techniques which you can use to comfort them.
Choose an age-suitable toothpaste. It’s important to get fluoride levels right. Fluoride can help build strong tooth enamel and prevent tooth decay. However, too much can cause ‘fluorosis’ leading to white spots on the teeth. You can check toothpaste packaging to ensure it is age-suitable or ask a dentist. See our guide to toddler dentist trips.
Encourage them to spit out toothpaste and use a tiny amount so that they won’t swallow harmful quantities. If your child is really keen on the taste of toothpaste keep it out of reach and ration how much is used.
Brush twice a day using a soft toddler toothbrush and toothpaste. Let them see you brushing your teeth and try to make it fun so that it’s an enjoyable part of your routine.
Brushing teeth after breakfast and before bed ensures teeth aren’t coated with remnants from mealtimes for long. After bed-time brushing, give them water rather than milk or juice as these can leave a layer on teeth which could cause tooth decay.
Use a circular ‘scrubbing’ technique, ideally around each tooth.
Most toddlers love the feeling of independence they get from cleaning their own teeth. So if yours is resistant let them try doing it themselves. You could also let them choose their own toothpaste or toothbrush. Check afterwards though, to ensure all food is removed. You could always let them try cleaning your teeth while you clean theirs! Keep it fun and part of the routine and they will eventually enjoy it. Or at least accept it.
Give your toddler drinks from a cup and dilute fruit juices – one part fruit juice to ten parts water until one year old, gradually diluting less as your child grows. While fruit juice is healthy, fruit sugars can attack teeth if toddlers are sipping juice for hours at a time.
A good supply of calcium and vitamin D will keep little teeth strong and build great foundations for adult teeth. Dairy is a well-known source of calcium. Other calcium-rich foods include salmon, beans and green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli.
We all know sweets are bad for teeth. But we also know it’s not always practical to eliminate sweets from their diet. The best thing is to limit sweets or let them eat a few in one go rather than eating them over a long period. This way, they can enjoy them, then brush their teeth, instead of allowing sugar to sit on the teeth for hours.
Want to swap techniques for getting them enthusiastic about tooth brushing? Gearing up for that first trip to the dentist? Read our guide to toddlers and dentists.
Dentist and mother of two, Natasha Roberts says: “Fluoride in toothpaste strengthens the teeth that have erupted and stops bacteria working. Parents must be careful that children don’t swallow too much toothpaste though, as it is important not to ingest too much fluoride”