Your toddler & preschooler

Lift and Look

Teeth can change quickly. At least every month, lift your child’s lip and take a close look at the teeth and gums.

Decay often starts along the front or back side of the front teeth or along the gums. The first sign is a white spot or line. If you notice white or brown spots on the teeth or see anything unusual, contact your child’s dentist or physician. He or she may be able to stop and reverse early decay by applying fluoride varnish.

If you notice your child is not eating or sleeping well, cranky, or complaining of pain anywhere around her face, it could be tooth decay.

No Thumbs and Pacifiers After 4th Birthday

Thumb and finger sucking and pacifier use are pretty much over by the time kids are 2-4 years old. If the behavior continues beyond 4 years, however, there is a risk of an overbite. Get ahead of this by sharing any concerns with your dentist or your child’s pediatrician.

Floss and Brush

Toddlers may resist brushing and flossing. Just like you would never let your child go to bed without a kiss, don’t let her go to bed without brushing. If a child has cavities in their baby teeth it can lead to cavities in permanent teeth impacting oral health throughout life. Your child may be ready to practice brushing at about age 4 or 5, but they still need your help until they are 8 years old, or until they can tie their shoes. Brush and floss your own teeth and have regular oral health checkups, too. You are a role model for your child.

  • Brush your child’s teeth at least twice a day. Always brush at bedtime.
  • Brush soon after your child has a snack that is high in carbohydrates (like crackers or pretzels), sticky (like raisins) or a sweet drink (including juice and sports drinks). If brushing is not possible, rinse with water.
  • Use a small soft toothbrush and a smear of fluoridated toothpaste.
  • Brush for at least two minutes, brushing in tiny circles.
  • Brush every surface of every tooth (don’t forget to brush around the back teeth) and the tongue.
  • Each family member should have his or her own toothbrush.
  • Replace your child’s toothbrush every three to four months.
  • Get your child involved in brushing by making it fun: sing songs, make up a story or game.
  • Once your child’s teeth touch, floss at least once a day to remove food stuck between teeth.

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