Thorough tooth brushing in the third year

If Baby puts up a brushing battle, know you’re not alone. Early tooth brushing is mostly about getting little ones used to the routine of dental care, but now that all of Baby’s teeth are in, and they're regularly and enthusiastically eating all kinds of solids, their tooth brushing routine will need to become more thorough.

According to the American Dental Association, one in four children will have a cavity before starting kindergarten. With such a high rate of tooth decay in young children, it’s critical to begin and stick with a good tooth brushing routine at this stage.

For a child under the age of three, it’s recommended to use fluoridated toothpaste, applying an amount about the size of a grain of rice to the brush. If Baby has teeth that touch, now is a good time to begin flossing as well.

It may be tempting to skip tooth brushing if it also means skipping the complaining and crying, but early tooth decay can lead to problems with adult teeth, too. Instead, getting Baby used to (and maybe even able to enjoy) brushing will help them out in the long run.

  • Sing a song: Seek out a song about brushing teeth, or even make up a silly jingle of your own, and let Baby get used to the idea that brushing lasts for the length of the tune. This adds an expected element to the routine, and also assures them that when the song ends, so does the brushing.
  • Ensure comfort: Having someone prod around your mouth with a toothbrush isn’t the most fun activity; just think of how much most adults dread going to the dentist. To help Baby feel a little better about it, be sure you have a cozy spot for tooth brushing, and that they are at a comfortable angle while you’re doing the job. It’s also helpful to make sure they have a toddler-sized brush with soft bristles – if they're been using the same brush for a while, it may be time for an upgrade, before it gets too scratchy on their gums.
  • Make the most of your time: As you’re building up to a good routine, be sure you’re using the time they are willing to stay still for effectively. Gently glide the toothbrush in a circular motion throughout their mouth, making sure you’re cleaning all teeth, as well as their gums.
  • Brush together: At this age, Baby still needs you to brush their teeth for them, and will for years to come. Still, once you’ve finished up, there’s no harm in letting them take over. Brush your teeth after, and let them “finish” brushing while you clean your own teeth, which will help them practice and feel more independent.
  • Make a chart: Children this age love rewards for a job well done, so setting up a tooth brushing chart may be helpful for encouraging good brushing habits. Put a chart on the bathroom wall, and let Baby add a sticker each time they cooperates for brushing time. The idea of getting a prize may just be their ticket to the no-cavity club.

Baby may not love tooth brushing, but they doesn’t have to dread it, either. If they have a specific objection to tooth brushing, try and see if there’s anything you can do to.

  • “ADA Uses Fluoride Toothpaste to Fight High Cavity Rate in Children.” American Dental Association. American Dental Association, February 10 2014. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  • “Frequently Asked Questions.” American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. Retrieved 14 September 2017. 

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