Toddlers should get help with tooth brushing from an adult.

Removing Plaque in Toddlers

by Kathy Gleason

Dental care is important for toddlers, as even very young children can get plaque and cavities if their teeth aren't maintained properly. For toddler, getting into good habits can help for the rest of their lives. Before starting a new dental routine with your child, always speak to her pediatrician for specific recommendations tailored to your tot.

1. Using a Washcloth

Toddlers should start brushing their teeth by age two at the latest. Before that, you can use a damp washcloth to gently swab the inside of your child's mouth, suggests the Yale Medical Group. This can begin even before children have teeth to get them used to it and wipe away food residue that can later cause plaque on gums and early teeth. At this age, you don't even need anything on the washcloth besides a bit of warm water, unless your pediatrician tells you differently.

2. Brushing Teeth

When you begin brushing your child's teeth, it should be done at least twice a day for three to four minutes at a time to remove plaque. Use plain water or toothpaste designed for toddlers that won't harm your child if she accidentally swallows a bit. You can also ask your pediatrician when it's okay to begin using regular toothpaste that contains fluoride. Just remember that if you are using fluoride toothpaste, to use only a tiny amount and supervise your child carefully.

3. Pediatric Dentists

According to KidsHealth, children should see a dentist for the first time by the first birthday. At this first visit, the dentist will show you how to brush and maintain your child's teeth and give an exam to see if there are any early warning signs of dental problems. In some cases, a dentist may decide to combat plague by giving your child fluoride treatments in his office.

4. Tips for Preventing Plaque

To keep plaque from happening in the first place, don't put your tot to bed with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice. If she's in the routine of having a drink in her crib or bed, fill it only with water so that sugars don't sit on her teeth overnight. Toddlers who still use pacifiers should have their pacifiers cleaned several times a day so that residual sugars from earlier snacks or drinks don't contaminate a clean mouth after brushing. Also, adults and children should not share eating utensils, as this can transfer plaque from your mouth to your child's.

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