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Pediatric Dentistry: Toddler Dental Care

by | Aug 2, 2019

The toddler years between 12 to 36 months of age are often some of the most challenging for parents – especially as teeth begin to grow in and it’s time to start introducing a solid dental hygiene routine. It’s also the time when parents have to address the habit of sucking on a pacifier or a thumb, which brings its own challenges. 

While it might come with some temporary frustrations, helping your toddler establish healthy oral care habits now can set them up for a lifetime of optimal oral health. Here’s a closer look at toddler dental care, including when your toddler needs to visit the dentist, the proper oral hygiene routine for toddlers, and helpful tips to keep your toddler’s smile healthy and bright.

Visiting the Dentist

When should your toddler visit the dentist? Well at this point, your child should have already had at least one visit with your dental professional. The American Dental Association recommends that babies see the dentist after the first tooth appears or by their first birthday. As soon as your child has a tooth, he can develop cavities, so it’s essential to get that first visit in as quickly as possible.

After that initial visit, your toddler should continue visiting the dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and check-up. It’s essential to make sure your toddler is getting those regular dental checkups to prevent problems and catch any dental issues early. Regular visits also help toddlers cope with dental anxiety by getting them used to your pediatric dentist. Remember, even though your child’s baby teeth will fall out, keeping them healthy is essential to ensuring they have healthy adult teeth when they come in.

Oral Hygiene Routine for Toddlers

Good oral hygiene at home is crucial for healthy teeth and gums of your toddler. Toddlers have the cognitive ability to understand a dental hygiene routine, but will still need help brushing and flossing efficiently. Here are a few guidelines to follow for toddler oral hygiene routines:

  • Brushing – Brushing twice daily should begin as soon as your child has teeth. Use a soft, child-sized toothbrush.
  • Toothpaste – For toddlers under the age of three, brush their teeth with less than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Toddlers over the age of three can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste, but brushing should be supervised to ensure they don’t swallow the toothpaste.
  • Flossing – Start flossing your toddler’s teeth once daily as soon as they have two teeth that touch. Floss picks or sticks may be easier for you and your toddler to use.
  • Setting a Routine – Make brushing and flossing a habit. Toddlers may try to get out of brushing before bedtime, but it’s essential to find ways to make it fun and ensure they build dental hygiene habits that will last a lifetime.

Helpful Tips for Your Toddler’s Oral Health

Beyond regular dental visits and following good oral hygiene practices, there are other steps you can take to keep your toddler’s teeth and gums healthy. A few helpful tips for optimal toddler oral health include: 

  • Avoid foods or liquids except for water after bedtime brushing – Children, especially toddlers, are prone to tooth decay. Once you’ve brushed your toddler’s teeth in the evening, avoid giving them juice, milk, or anything sweet. Otherwise, the sugar will stay on your child’s teeth through the night, increasing the risk of tooth decay.
  • Don’t let your toddler nap with milk or juice – Drinking from a bottle or sippy cup that has milk or juice can be soothing to a toddler that needs to nap, but it can turn into a serious problem for their oral health. Both juice and milk contain sugar, and if your child goes down for a nap drinking these liquids, sugars cling to your child’s teeth, feeding the bacteria that can cause cavities. 
  • Wean your toddler off their pacifier ASAP – Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for young children to self-soothe. However, as your child’s teeth start coming in, sucking on a pacifier or thumb can negatively impact teeth and jaw alignment. Most children will stop sucking on a pacifier on their own, but it’s vital to ensure your toddler is weaned off a pacifier by age three. 

It’s not always easy to get your toddler used to oral hygiene habits and routine dental visits. However, putting in the work now can set your child up for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums and overall optimal oral health.


Triangle Dentistry, located in Raleigh, NC, provides a state-of-the-art facility that offers exceptional general dental and specialty services guided by empathy of a patient’s needs and desires. Services range from dental crowns to veneers and whitening procedures. For further information, questions, or to schedule an appointment, contact the office at (919) 747-3608.