Tomorrow morning, I’m taking my 2 1/2 year old son to the dentist.
I’m so excited.
And by “so excited”, I mean “I’d rather stick a hot fork in my eye.”
The brushing of the teeth has been an on/off struggle ever since the first few pearly whites poked through at about 4 months. My son got all of his teeth really early, and I’ve been vigilant about caring for them, but it’s really, really hard to take care of anything inside someone else’s mouth if they just refuse to let you. Oral care for toddler is no easy task.
We’ve had some stretches where our little man has done really well with brushing, proudly smiling about the good job he did, and we’ve also had knock-down, drag-outs that end up with both of us in tears.
I’m not sure what to expect tomorrow. But I’m bribing with stickers and keeping my fingers crossed.
So, in all honesty I will tell you I’m certainly no expert on dental care, but after my fair share of research and trial and error, I’ve come to a few conclusions regarding the care of toddler teef.
1. First, I’ll just put it out there that we don’t use fluoride. To me, the benefits of ingesting fluoride just do not outweigh the risks. It’s a toxic substance, and the fluoride drops that were provided by our doctor contained artificial sweetners and food dyes, so there was no question. I take some heat for it, and I expect a little tomorrow, but as a momma you just have to do what feels right…and no fluoride feels right for us.
2. We’re still nursing 30 months in, and there are mixed schools of thought on whether that is helpful or harmful to little teeth. Especially if night nursing factors in. Our dentist told me it was OK if I “had” to, as long as we brushed after. Yeah, a 2am brush session sounds tres realistic, no? According to KellyMom.com, consistent evaluation on the effects of breastmilk on dental caries just doesn’t exist, but the information that has been compiled indicated no correlation between the two. IN fact, some believe that breastmilk has antibacterial properties that actually protect against decay (since cavities are caused by bacteria, this makes sense to me.) And besides, when a baby is properly latched, the milk does not bathe teeth or pool around them, but instead flows right past to the back of the mouth. So, nurse on we will…
3. No raisins, no candy, no fruit snacks, nothing sticky, and watch that juice. Anything that sticks to or sits on teeth will only contribute to the problem, and even if kids brush, they rarely brush well enough to trust that they’ll get all the nooks and crannies where stickies hide. (Funny how all of those foods seem to be targeted right at our novice brushers, huh?)
4. Making brushing fun has been key to our successes. I know that seems like pretty basic advice, but it’s really true. We have several toothbrushes, all different colors, and we switch them up often. An battery-powered “Spinbrush” has been an especially effective tool (partly because it’s fun, but also because Daddy has one.) We count teeth, sing songs, and clap a LOT when things go well. Count teeth, one by one. Make whale sounds like Dory (below…) Roar like a dinosaur. Do whatever you have to, without resorting to yelling (I’ve done it enough to know it only makes things worse. ) Stressing the importance of a job well done should not be undervalued, as the toddler years are the time for learning independence and fulfilling that need to “do it myself!”
5. Brush up on your own habits. Get out that floss! I will admit that my oral hygiene has improved since I’ve been trying to get my son excited about tooth care. After all, you’ve gotta be what you want to see, right?
I’m not above telling my son that his teeth will get boo-boos if he doesn’t brush them, but I know there has to be a better way. How do you get your kids excited about caring for their teeth?