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Toddlers and Toothbrushes

What is more thrilling than seeing your little cutie shine that wide grin of theirs at you? Pretty much nothing except maybe the knowledge that you have done everything possible to ensure that beautiful smile is as healthy as it is fetching. With the American Dental Association estimating that as many as 40 percent of children under 5 have tooth decay, it is time for toddlers to put down their tiaras and pick up their toothbrushes.

According to New York City based orthodontist Dr. Jacqueline Fulop Goodling, who owns three practices that are among the busiest pediatric dental and orthodontic offices in the area in NYC on Long Island and in Monroe, instilling in your child a healthy respect for oral hygiene and effective habits from day one is vital.

It is essential to start your child off with good oral health as early as possible to not only keep their mouths healthy while they rely on you for everything, but to also give them the knowledge and the tools to be able to care for their own oral health when the time comes, says Dr. Jacquie. It is incredibly empowering to a child when parents make her an active partner is her dental care and we know that those children are more likely to go on to a life of good oral hygiene.

I. Start Young
WHY: Good oral hygiene should start even before baby teeth sprout. While bacteria in the mouth cannot do any damage to the teeth before they erupt it is important to get into the habit of wiping the gums at bath time for a number of reasons:
Parents often do not realize when the teeth are starting to push through.
It is much easier to acclimate a baby to this routine before the discomfort of teething interferes.
Getting baby used to having her mouth cleaned will make it easier to transition to toothbrushing when the time is right.

HOW: It is as easy as wiping baby s gums with gauze or a soft wet washcloth during bath time. Simply wrap the material around your finger and gently swipe it over the gums no need for toothpaste yet!

II. Is your baby Tooth some?
Once the first chomper appears (usually around six months, although some perfectly healthy babies do not see their first pearly white until as late as 18 months) it is time to step up your oral health game. According to Dr. Jacquie, babies should see a pediatric dentist at their first birthday or upon the eruption of that first tooth whichever comes first. As soon as that first tooth appears, it s time to get brushing.

WHY: We still see parents who believe that caring for their children s baby teeth is less important than caring for adult teeth. Not only does that attitude send the wrong message, it is also absolutely false that baby teeth are less important than adult teeth. Dr. Jacquie says, explaining that baby teeth fulfill all the same duties as adult teeth with the only difference being that they are designed to fit the smaller jaws of our youth. Healthy baby teeth are essential for proper digestion, speech development and jaw development. Baby teeth are also important placeholders for adult teeth, and adult teeth that come into an unhealthy mouth are more prone to have decay as well.

Apply a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste to a baby toothbrush with a small head that fits comfortably in your hand and twice a day brush on the inside and the outside of your child s teeth. Some cooperative babies even let their parents give their tongues a quick once over.
It is very important to use the smallest amount of toothpaste possible until baby learns to rinse and spit not something many 6 month olds are likely to do.
While there is no evidence to show that flossing baby teeth carries any real benefit (particularly those that do not even touch), it is not a bad idea to establish that routine as well once your baby has tooth surfaces that touch each other.

III. To fluoridate or not to fluoridate?
The most common sources of fluoride are fluoridated water, fluoride supplements and brushing with fluoride toothpaste. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association and The Centers for Disease Control all agree that drinking fluoridated water is a safe method of fluoridation. Furthermore, the CDC states. The proper amount of fluoride from infancy through old age helps prevent and control tooth decay.

WHY: Fluoride is an important mineral that strengthens tooth enamel and prevents and can even reverse early signs of tooth decay. It is important both before and after teeth erupt.

Fluoride the baby ingests enters the blood stream making teeth stronger and more resistant to decay even before they erupt, explains Dr. Jacquie.

HOW: There are a number of ways your baby and toddler can get the fluoride they need and it is important to discuss the optimal method for your family with either a pediatrician or a dentist before teeth even arrive. Since methods of feeding vary and the addition of fluoride to drinking water varies from one city to the other, Dr. Jacquie recommends speaking with your pediatrician early on to ensure your baby is getting the proper amount of fluoride.

The benefits of good oral health in babies and toddlers are massive healthy habits early on prevent tooth decay, the premature loss of baby teeth and other issues and can even preempt the development of dental phobias that will hamper oral health as the child assumes control of his own care.

Baby teeth might be temporary but they are incredibly important to a child s oral health and to the development of their adult teeth. Additionally, despite their name, they are meant to last a lot longer than through your child’s baby years. Most adult teeth in the front of the mouth do not come through until ages 6 or 7 and molars often do not appear until age 12, says Dr. Jacquie. With tooth decay the most common chronic childhood disease, establishing these habits early on is essential.