Looking After Your Toddler’s Teeth
Your toddler’s first tooth is likely to appear at about six months of age. By about 36 months of age, your toddler should have 20 teeth (10 on the top and ten on the bottom). Once teething begins, it will continue for about two years. Some toddlers have no problem with teething while others become uncomfortable and fussy. A common sign that a new tooth is coming is increased drooling. Teething does not cause fevers.
- Use a bib on your toddler to catch drool.
- Wipe your toddler’s face often to prevent chaffing.
- Give your toddler a clean, chilled wet face cloth or teething ring to chew on. Check the condition of teething rings frequently. Throw away any teething rings that are cracked or worn. Teething gels and ointment are not recommended.
- Avoid giving teething cookies or biscuits. These can lead to tooth decay.
- Give your toddler extra love and patience to help him through the teething process.
Your Toddler’s Teeth are Important
Your toddler’s first teeth (called baby teeth) are important because they:
- Help your toddler to stay healthy. Infections in the mouth and teeth can affect overall health and have lifelong health consequences.
- Help your toddler eat and digest food properly.
- Play an important role in speaking.
- Help in jaw development and guide the permanent teeth into their proper position.
- Help your toddler look good.
Brushing Your Toddler’s Teeth
Tooth decay can start as soon as a tooth appears in your toddler’s mouth. Follow these steps to help prevent decay:
- Once baby teeth appear, gently brush your toddler’s teeth (once in the morning and after the last evening feeding) with a child’s toothbrush.
- Use a rice grain-sized portion of fluoride toothpaste. As more teeth appear, gradually increase the amount of toothpaste up to a pea‑sized amount by the age of 36 months.
- Keep toothpaste out of your toddler’s reach. Children should not swallow large amounts of toothpaste with fluoride.
Flossing Your Toddler’s Teeth
- Once your toddler’s teeth touch each other, floss once a day.
- Your toddler could damage the gums if she or he tries to floss. It’s best if an adult does the flossing.
Choosing Food and Drinks Carefully
- Do not offer your toddler sugary drinks like pop, punch, or slush drinks.
- Avoid letting your toddler drink milk or juice out of a bottle at naptime or bedtime.
- Offer regular meals and snacks. Avoid grazing (eating and drinking all the time, including from a bottle or sip cup).
- If your toddler is thirsty, offer only plain water unless it is a regular meal or snack time.
- When your toddler is six to nine months old, serve drinks in a cup instead of a bottle or a sip cup.
Visiting the Dentist
The Canadian Dental association recommends that toddlers see a dentist six months after the first baby tooth appears or no later than 12 months of age.
If you are on Premium Assistance through Medical Services Plan (MSP), your toddler may have dental benefits through the Healthy Kids Program. For more information, visit the Healthy Kids Program website.
Watch a presentation by the British Columbia Dental Association:
Your Child's Baby Teeth and Maintaining your Child's Good Dental Health.
Avoid Sharing Your Germs
The bacteria from your mouth may increase the chance of tooth decay in your toddler’s mouth. Here are some tips to avoid sharing your germs:
- If your toddler uses a soother, avoid putting it in your mouth.
- Use separate toothbrushes.
- Use one spoon to test the food and another to feed your toddler with.
Soothers are sometimes given to toddlers to help them satisfy their need to suck, beyond their need for nutrition. A soother should not be use in place of cuddling, comforting, or breastfeeding. Try finding out if your toddler wants something or is hungry, bored, or tired before giving a soother.
Children who use soothers have more ear infections than those who do not use a soother. Children who have frequent ear infections should have their use of a soother limited.
For tips on helping your toddler stop or reduce using a soother, click here.
Soother Safety Checklist
- Make sure the soother is a one‑piece design.
- Check regularly that the nipple is firmly attached to the handle by giving it a good tug.
- Replace the soother every two months. If the soother is sticky, cracked, or torn, throw it away. It can easily tear and become a choking hazard.
- Sterilize the soother before the first use by boiling it in water for five minutes and then letting it cool completely.
- Clean the soother in warm, soapy water. Avoid cleaning it in your own mouth, which can transfer bacteria from your mouth to your toddler’s mouth.
- Never tie a cord to a soother and hang it around your toddler’s neck or attach it to clothes. It can get tangled around your toddler’s neck, causing your toddler to strangle. You can use a clip with a short ribbon attached.
- Avoid letting your toddler chew a soother for teething. It can tear or break and become a choking hazard.
- Never dip a soother into honey, syrup, or any other sweetener. This can lead to tooth decay. Also, honey should not be given to children under 12 months of age.