Good dental health is important for everyone regardless of age. If you have a baby or toddler (or both) at home, take advantage of this time to provide foundational routines for good dental health.

Dental Habits to Avoid

Unfortunately, there are bad dental habits that can begin when children are babies or toddlers. The good news is that these bad dental habits can be broken with a little time and effort.

One of the most harmful dental habits results in what dentists call “Bottle Mouth,” which is when babies or toddlers are used to going to bed with a bottle or sippy cup. Children at this stage fall asleep with milk or juice in their mouths, and the sugars mix with existing bacteria to decay their teeth. To break this habit, dilute the milk or juice in the bottle or sippy cup a little each night until only water remains, then gradually reduce the use of a bottle or cup at bedtime as time passes.

Fluoride may be prescribed by your pediatrician if needed, but too much of it can be harmful to your child’s teeth. Generally, children ingest too much fluoride through the use of toothpaste while brushing teeth – it tastes good, so kids want to eat it. This bad habit results in a condition called Fluorosis, where white or brown spots form on a child’s teeth. It’s unnecessary for babies or toddlers to use toothpaste while learning to brush their teeth, but there are brands made especially for this stage that will help keep your child safe.

A Healthy Dental Routine

Keeping your child’s smile healthy and bright at any age requires a consistent dental routine. At this stage of life, your baby or toddler will most likely imitate you – take advantage of this to teach your child how to take care of his or her teeth.

A baby’s mouth can be kept clean using a soft cloth – simply rub down your baby’s gums after each feeding. As teeth begin to erupt, transition to a small toothbrush with soft bristles. As your baby grows into a toddler, teach your child to brush all surfaces of the teeth, including along the gumline. This will keep plaque under control between dental visits.

Good Nutrition Means Healthy Smiles

Plaque is the yellowish film that clings to teeth, leading to decay if not brushed away. Healthy food choices, however, play an equally important role in controlling plaque. Crunchy foods – such as apples and carrots – help naturally clean away plaque, while fruits high in Vitamin C keep plaque from forming. Supplement fruits and vegetables with whole grains and dairy products in your child’s diet to ensure a healthy smile for years to come!

Kelly Wilson is a busy mom, former teacher, and freelance writer. For more information about how to help your child maintain a bright, healthy smile at any age, check out Pacific Family Dental and Dr. Wendell King, a Dentist in Sherwood, Oregon.