Most children have some teeth when they enter the toddler years, and by age three, many have a full set of choppers (FIGURE 3-1). Beginning around age six months, the two lower middle teeth appear. Next the two upper middle teeth (the incisors) come in. Then the teeth on either side of the two front teeth appear (more incisors) followed by more bottom teeth. By age two, most children have sixteen sparkling teeth. However, both the timing and pattern can vary dramatically. Eventually they should end up with ten on top and ten on the bottom.
These baby teeth, also called milk teeth or primary teeth, will gradually be replaced by a set of permanent ones beginning after age five. The health of the baby teeth affects the permanent teeth, so they need to be well cared for!
Toddlers will need parents to brush their teeth for them until they are coordinated enough to make the proper motions. (At the first dental checkup, typically at age three, the dentist will give them a lesson.) To teach proper brushing techniques, parents can simply place their hand over their toddler's and guide them through the process. Expect toddlers to chew and otherwise mangle the toothbrush bristles. Here are some tips to make tooth brushing easier for you and your child:
A: Central incisors (6–10 months)
B: Lateral incisors (10–13 months)
C: Canine (17–23 months)
D: First baby molar (14–18 months)
E: Second baby molar (23–31 months)
Use a soft-bristled kiddie-size brush. If you buy several, you can let the toddler choose which to use at each brushing.
Brush a doll or teddy's teeth first to give your toddler a chance to witness what is going on and become comfortable with the idea.
Use your child's natural urge to mimic by brushing your teeth while she brushes hers.
Provide a pea-size spot of toothpaste (choose a brand formulated for children; adult toothpaste is too strong) and try to keep her from swallowing.
After she's finished, give her a once-over-lightly to make sure the job is done properly, especially at bedtime.
Schedule a trip to the dentist, then cloak yourself in the voice of authority: Remind your child that the dentist said she must brush her teeth every day to keep them healthy.