August 23, 2017


What's the best way to brush my child's teeth?

Use a small, soft toothbrush and a tiny amount of fluoride toothpaste. (It's fine to use any fluoridated toothpaste. Note that many toothpastes marketed for babies and toddlers don't contain fluoride.)

As soon as your child's teeth start erupting, use a thin smear of toothpaste or a dot the size of a grain of rice. After her third birthday, you can use a pea-size amount.Be sure to follow these recommendations to avoid giving your child too much fluoride.

Twice a day, in the morning and at night after dinner, gently brush the teeth on both the inside and outside surfaces, as well as the tongue, to dislodge bacteria that can cause bad breath. Once you think your child can manage not to swallow the toothpaste, teach her to rinse with water.

Replace the toothbrush as soon as the bristles start to look worn or splayed.

Your child's dentist may also recommend flossing between any tooth surfaces that are touching. The best time to floss is right after brushing so the floss will draw fluoride from the toothpaste down between the teeth.

When can I let my child start brushing his own teeth?

As soon as he's willing and able, it's a good idea to let your child try to brush his own teeth, even though he probably won't do a good job until he's about 7 years old or so.

In the meantime, brush your teeth while he's doing his, and then "check" each other's teeth to see if they're clean. Tell him you'll get the spots he "missed" and let him get your "missed spots," too.

What can I do if my child won't brush?

If your child fusses when it's time to brush, it might help to buy her a toothbrush with a special cartoon character on it.

You can also let your child have several brushes in different colors so that she can choose the one she wants when it's time to brush.

Does my child need fluoride?

Developing teeth can benefit from a little fluoride. This mineral prevents tooth decay by strengthening tooth enamel and making it more resistant to acids and harmful bacteria. Your child can get fluoride from toothpaste, water, and, if needed, supplements. His dentist will also apply a fluoride varnish to his teeth at his dental checkups.

If the fluoride content is less than .3 parts per million, ask your child's doctor or dentist whether you should give your child a supplement. You can get a prescription for drops or chewable tablets.

Bottled water and fruit juices may also contain fluoride, although the amount isn't always listed on the label.

Keep in mind that while a little fluoride is a good thing for your child's teeth, swallowing too much of it over time can lead to a condition called ,fluorosis which can cause white spots to show up on your child's adult teeth. That's why it's important not to use too much toothpaste, especially before your child learns to rinse and spit it out.

Are certain foods more likely to cause tooth decay?

Yes. Sweets (including fruit, dried fruit, juice, and foods such as peanut butter and jelly) and starches (such as breads, crackers, pasta, pretzels) can contribute to cavities.

Try to serve these foods at mealtime rather than as snacks so they're more likely to get dislodged and won't sit on the teeth too long. Serving them with water is also helpful.

When should I start taking my child to the dentist?

Pediatric Dentistry recommend that you take your child to the dentist within six months after his first tooth erupts, or by his first birthday, whichever comes first.

If you haven't taken your child for a dental checkup, make an appointment as soon as possible. Then follow the dentist's guidelines for follow-up visits based on your child's needs.

August 2, 2017


How can I teach my toddler to share?

When your toddler refuses to share his favorite truck (or even his least favorite truck), he isn't really being selfish — he's just acting his age. Sharing is a skill he'll develop over several years. In the meantime, struggles over toys will be common. It's no fun to watch your child grab a toy and shout "Mine!" But if he's playing with other toddlers, he won't be the only one doing it.

That said, kids learn by imitating what they see, so take every opportunity to show your child how to share. Offer him a bite of your meal or a chance to assist in the fun of decorating a cake. As you do, use the word "share" to describe your behavior. ("I'm eating a really good sandwich, and I'd love to share it with you. Would you like some?") When your toddler attempts to share, praise his efforts. Little by little, he'll drink in the positive reinforcement and feel good about repeating those actions that seem to make you so happy. Before long, he'll start sharing because it comes naturally.

Toddlers do lots of "proto-sharing" — showing an object to other people and allowing them to manipulate it without quite letting go. Though it doesn't look like it, it's a big step toward sharing, so reinforce it. "How nice of you to show Seth your phone," you might say. Later, when he's started playing with something else, you could suggest he pass the phone to his friend, and praise him for doing so. Whether the other child wants the toy at this point is not as important as practicing the act of sharing and being rewarded for it.

One way to avoid tantrums over sharing is to let your child hide a few of his most precious playthings before his friends come over. Tell him these toys are ones he doesn't have to share, then put them away. Make sure your child is aware that what's left is for everyone, though. If he says he doesn't want to hide a favorite toy but you know he'll have trouble sharing it, you might want to buy a duplicate if it isn't an expensive item.

If toys just seem to incite too many quarrels and tugs-of-war, you may want to steer clear of them altogether and engage your child and his playmates in a project such as making pretend cookies with modeling clay or drawing pictures. That way, they can be involved in the same fun activities without having to share possessions.

You should never punish a child, especially one this age, for not sharing. You can let him know you're disappointed and sad when he doesn't share, but that's it. Don't make a big deal out of it. Some of these struggles should be ignored — you don't want sharing to become a parent-child battleground. Let him work this out with other children. When he doesn't share, his friends will let him know in no uncertain terms how unhappy they are, and he'll learn that sometimes it takes hard work to be a good friend!