In addition to making sure that your little one regularly sees a dentist by the time they're a year old, practicing daily dental hygiene at home is essential for healthy teeth and gums as they grow up. But it can be a challenge to get toddlers to maintain proper dental hygiene without any pouting, grumbling, or complaining to contend with.
Let's face it, brushing teeth and visiting the dentist aren't very fun ways for a toddler to spend their time. Luckily, you can implement lots of dental hygiene opportunities into your toddler's day that encourage engagement and even make them want to take care of their own teeth. Here's how:
Make Flavored Toothpaste
Plain toothpastes on the market aren't typically interesting to toddlers, and sometimes even minty toothpaste isn't very appealing because the flavor can be overwhelming. You can make brushing with toothpaste enjoyable and fun by making your own flavored options to use. There's no need to make your toothpaste from scratch – simply choose a natural plain paste from your local health store and mix in a drop or a half teaspoonful of one or more of the following:
- Sweet orange essential oil.
- Watermelon flavor oil.
- Juice from fresh or frozen berries.
- Crushed strawberries (this naturally keeps baby's teeth white too!)
If your toddler is old enough, ask them to help you make the toothpaste so they are involved with the process and maintain some control over their dental hygiene habits.
Choose Some Tasty "Dental" Snacks
A great way to promote healthy teeth and gums is to treat your toddler to snacks that scrape away plaque, such as celery sticks with peanut butter and carrots with raisins. Sliced apples are also great options because they're crunchy and juicy, acting like a natural toothbrush when they're eaten. Other effective options include:
The key to snacking is moderation. Just a few pieces of fruits or vegetables, or a small fistful of other types of snacks, should be sufficient to keep your toddler fueled between meals.
Replace Juice with Water-Based Drinks
Fruit juice is a fun option a few times a week, but it shouldn't be a mainstay in your toddler's diet, as it promotes both tooth decay and obesity. Water is your best bet, but it tends to get boring quickly for little taste buds. You can keep your toddler hydrated and their teeth healthy with the help of infused water that tastes delicious without all the tooth rotting sugar that soda and juice has. Try infusing one or more of the following ingredients into a pitcher of water:
- The juice of a lime and a handful of fresh mint leaves.
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice.
- Basil leaves and whole dates for a touch of sweetness.
- Whole strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.
Fill your pitcher with water and then add about a cup of each ingredient you want to use into the water. Mix in a handful of ice cubes and then let the water rest in your fridge overnight so the flavors can meld. Enjoy the water as-is, or strain the water into a new container and serve.
Make Visits to the Dentist a Positive Experience
Visiting the dentist can be a scary experience for most toddlers because of the tools used during cleaning and checkups, the overwhelming numbers of people who aren't familiar, and the big cold chairs that have to be sat in throughout the duration of the visit. Making dental visits a positive experience will minimize tantrums, anxiety, and doubts that may accompany the visit. Start by meeting with your child's dentist before your scheduled appointment to learn what their specific procedures are so you can practice them at home.
Get step-by-step brushing and flossing information while you're there, and implement those techniques on a daily basis in the weeks leading up to your toddler's dental visit so that when the dentist does cleans their teeth, your child is used to it. It's also a good idea to have a conversation with your little one multiple times before their appointment to discuss the positive aspects of seeing a dentist and how important the process is.
With the help of these tips and tricks, your child will learn skills and regimens that they can use to keep their teeth and gums healthy through their teens years and adult life. For more information, contact a local general dentistry clinic.