Blog Post

Tooth Care for Toddlers

Dr Jemma KE Hook is a Dentist and mum who can provide expert guidance on all things teething. You can follow her on Instagram @themummydentist for lots of useful nuggets of advice on caring for young children’s teeth and other parenting hacks!

If you’re experiencing the so-called terrible twos or have a sassy threenager on your hands you may find that toothbrushing becomes a bit of a challenge. This is a very common scenario and is normally just another phase of parenthood. Remember these are the basic principles of looking after a cheeky chomping toddler’s teeth;

Tooth care habits -

Brushing twice daily (with adult help).

Using an age appropriate toothbrush and a suitable amount of fluoridated toothpaste: for 0-3 use a flat smear of no less than 1000ppm fluoride, for 3-6 a pea-sized amount of paste of more than 1000ppm fluoride (or a family toothpaste which contains 1350-1500ppm).

Encourage them to spit out any excess paste (don’t rinse, try not to swallow).

Teething can continue until around age 2 ½ - 3 as the back molars come in. Allowing toddlers to chew on teething aids can help to gently massage the gums and provide distraction.

Visit your family dentist regularly for assessment and advice.

Dietary habits -

Be wary of frequency of sugar intake: reduce the number of snack attacks each day. Look for alternative snack choices such as savoury muffins or flapjacks – baking with your little one can be fun! 

Fruit is nutritious but best eaten in its natural form (whole or sliced) as when blended it releases fruit sugars.  Also be wary of dried fruits such as raisins as these easily get stuck into the grooves of tooth surfaces.

Keep sweeter items as treat and try limit to mealtimes only (e.g. as dessert). Full fat plain or Greek yoghurt is also a great option and can it be jazzed up different with fresh fruit toppings.

Use an open cup for drinking. Try to discontinue the use of a bottle after age 1 as the artificial teat can pool liquids around front teeth and affect tooth alignment too.

Drinks that are best for teeth are plain water or milk. Fruit cordials/squash may say ‘no added sugar’ but contain lots of fruit sugars. Fruit is nutritious but best consumed in its natural form either whole or sliced. Also beware of drinks such as ‘flavoured’ water which are ‘sugar-free’ as these contain citric acid which can easily damage baby tooth enamel.

It is also advised to only drink water at night-time (after the bedtime brush) from the age of 1.

Finally here are 5 practical follow-on tips to help with toddler toothcare;

  1. Consistency – try and ensure all caregivers give the same support with toothbrushing time.
  2. Role modelling – allow them to see and copy. It could be siblings, parents or even TV characters such as Peppa Pig.
  3. Make it fun – use a toothbrushing song such as those by Hey Duggee, Elmo or Blippi. Keep the language surrounding brushing time positive. Consider the novelty of letting them choose a new toothbrush!
  4. Preparation - for their visit to the dentist. You can find different toys and storybooks with a dentist theme.
  5. Keep calm – try to ignore negative behaviours, praise the good and accept that not every time will be perfect. Just do your best!

Little one not yet at toddler stage? Read Jemma’s other blog on our website 'Tooth Care for Babies'  for all you need to know about dental care for younger infants!

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