We all know the drill, no pun intended.
Your child hands you his toothbrush and bares his teeth. He giggles and grins as each tooth is expertly polished. Then he gives you a hug, climbs into bed and sleeps until morning.
Oh wait, that’s not it. It’s more like we carry him screaming into the bathroom, he squirms mightily while we try to get the toothbrush past his locked lips, then he deliberately dumps the glass of rinse water onto our laps.
Tooth brushing. It’s a chore many of us dread as parents. And for some parents, it’s a chore they’ve simply decided to skip.
We were chatting with a friend of ours recently, a woman who has a son about the same age as ours. The conversation eventually settled on how to get Louie to let us brush his tiny teeth. Teeth which sometimes have a sort of orange film on the front.
Our friend said she doesn’t brush her son’s teeth. Ever. She explained that since they’re just baby teeth, what’s the point?
And I thought “Great! We don’t have to brush our son’s teeth then?”
Ummmmm, no. We do have to brush his baby teeth even if they are all going to fall out anyway, and here’s why.
According to an article on the University of Washington’s site, toddlers are susceptible to something called dental “caries,” or rot that leaves small holes in their teeth. It’s a disease that can affect their whole body and can easily be prevented by brushing. If left untreated, caries can lead to infection and tooth loss.
I had never heard of dental caries, but the best way to identify if your child has tooth decay is to take him or her to the dentist. It’s difficult to diagnose on your own. Nowadays, dental pros are recommending a child have their first dental examination and risk assessment by the time they turn 1.
At home, it’s best to brush your toddler’s teeth at least twice a day, if not more. And it’s especially important to brush before bedtime, so that bacteria don’t linger on teeth overnight.
So, the battle continues. We are trying to make a game of brushing his teeth, showing him how mommy and daddy brush, and making up silly songs about his incisors. But if none of that does the trick, I hold Louie on my lap, dip his head back over my arm until his mouth falls open and scrub away. He’ll thank us later. I’m sure of it.
For more information about children’s oral health, including tips, a dental dictionary and a list of free and low-cost dental care facilities, visit our Oral Health Campaign Hub.
Who’s Brushing Baby’s Teeth?
Optimizing Infant and Toddler Oral Health: The Importance of Early Intervention