Why dental hygiene should begin in toddlerhood

What can parents learn at their child’s first dental visit? 

This first dental visit should be seen as an opportunity for dentists to teach parents how to clean their child’s teeth. Doing so will ensure that their children’s milk teeth aren’t lost to decay. Essentially, baby teeth need to stay in place until it is the right time for them to fall out. This is because these teeth help create the space that will eventually be taken up by permanent teeth.

Having all their teeth will also help babies chew properly and ensure speech development is as it should be.

The dentist can also answer common questions parents have – including if thumb sucking will hamper teeth alignment (those who continue to suck their thumb past the page of five can actually end up requiring braces). The dentist will also inspect your toddler’s mouth, looking at the jaw, gums, bite and teeth. If necessary, the dentist may perform a gentle cleaning to remove any existing plaque. An x-ray will not normally be taken so early, but if the dentist suspects a root is jamming growth of a permanent tooth, it might be recommended. 

What you can do at home 

Even before your baby’s first tooth erupts, clean the gum area with a clean, damp cloth.

When the first tooth appears, you can start brushing with a soft brush and toothpaste specifically made for babies and toddlers.

This type of toothpaste is fluoridated and gentle in flavour. You can start using it when your baby is old enough to spit it out after brushing. 

To ensure your child enjoys good oral health from babyhood onwards, regular cleaning and dental visits are key. One of the most important things the dentist will show you is how to brush and floss your child’s teeth. You should ideally help your child with these tasks until he or she is around eight years old, so knowing basics like where to position the brush and the right angles to use are vital. 

Kylee Harris is an educator who has taught in elementary schools in Singapore and Hong Kong for 5 years. She lives in Florida and continues to teach life skills to young adults in her community.

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