Proper dental care for your child begins early, really with the eruption of that long awaited first tooth. It is easy to wipe off the first teeth with a wet washcloth or baby toothbrush. It is easy in the beginning when your baby will not be bothered by it, it gets a bit harder as your baby decides to clamp down and not open their mouth. Why a child figures this out before they are one, who knows?
Parents should know that they never put their baby to bed with a bottle, that is why there are “bars on the crib”, the bottle should not go behind the bars! Same thing if you are breastfeeding, do not let your child fall asleep on the breast or nurse off and on through the night as this may also contribute to cavities. The saliva in a baby’s mouth helps cleanse the teeth as well, so you want to have time without milk in the mouth for this natural cleansing to occur.
I usually start talking about using a toothbrush around 9-12 months when your child can hold a toothbrush and put in in their own mouth. It is a fun “game” to play as you brush your own teeth and they want to mimic the behavior. For some reason a child also always wants your toothbrush so often Mom or Dad is suddenly using the Dora toothbrush while child has nice Oral-B!
At any rate, you can begin using a non fluoride baby tooth paste and as your child starts to mimic spitting out toothpaste you can buy a children’s brand toothpaste with fluoride. Get into the habit of “play brushing” twice a day.
Next hurdle is flossing which is now called “jumping rope” by our favorite pediatric dentist. I found “jumping rope” to be a bit of a challenge with a toddler but it is just an attempt to start thinking about flossing. Like everything else it takes practice and most kids will open their mouths and let you help floss once they are a bit older around 2 1/2 - 3. Don’t hold them down flailing and crying to floss...try, try again as they become more cooperative.
Lastly, try to avoid sticky foods. Knowing that it may be challenging to get a really good “brush and floss” in with an 18 month old, limit raisins, sticky juices, and all of those gummy snacks that will stick in the grooves of the teeth. Water should be drink of choice between meals and milk with meals, all of this out of a cup after the age of 1!