From adorable gummy baby grins to a toddler mouth full of little pearly whites, kids undoubtedly have the cutest smiles in the world. But did you know that taking care of your child’s oral health is one of the most important things you can do for their whole body wellness?
By the time babies are born, they already have 20 primary—or “baby”—teeth formed in their jaws. At around six months, the teeth begin erupting through the gums and by age three, most kids have a full set of tiny teeth.
We all know that baby teeth fall out eventually, starting at around six years old. So, why is it important to spend loads of time caring for teeth that won’t be around for longer than a few years? Well, not only do baby teeth hold places for the permanent, adult teeth that will come in (and hopefully last a lifetime), but they help kids learn to chew and speak properly, and also influence the immune system.
As a parent, you can establish good dental habits for your family, which is the key to long-lasting, healthy teeth. Here’s a simplified guide that can help you navigate the world of toddler oral health:
As a parent, you can establish good dental habits for your family, which is the key to promoting long-lasting, healthy teeth. Here’s a simplified guide that can help you navigate the world of toddler oral health:
• Establish an oral health routine from the start. Before teeth even come in, wipe gums daily with a soft, clean washcloth to get your baby used to oral care. When teeth do start to break through, brush gently at least two times per day with a soft brush to avoid gunky buildup.
• Take charge of your child’s oral health. You might be surprised to learn that you (and ideally a partner) need to be in charge of brushing your child’s teeth until they reach 7 or 8 years old. Why? The truth of the matter is that, until that age, they simply won’t be able to brush substantially. You can definitely involve your little one, but you should be at the helm of his or her teeth brushing. Every time. If this sounds like an impossible feat, don’t worry—it can be fun! Check out the simple and easy technique below that will get you into this healthy habit in a fun and happy (keyword) way.
As well, be vigilant about checking the state of your child’s teeth and gums as they grow. Your child’s gums should be even in tone and color (even as baby teeth pop through), so take notice of anything that appears irritated or unusually swollen. Even healthy mouths can face issues that appear (and can affect the body) quite quickly, so it’s important to check in on your child’s teeth and gums every day.
• Floss tight spaces. Some toddlers have big teeth and crowded mouths! As soon as you notice any of your child’s teeth touching, begin flossing right away to remove trapped food particles.
• Breastfeed. Ideally, you’ll be breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, setting the foundation for your baby’s lifetime of health. But, breastfeeding beyond the first six months—once teeth come in—is beneficial for dental health as well. One study showed that breast milk deposited calcium and phosphate directly onto tooth enamel and, much like water, it did not cause any decalcification or acidic oral conditions that can lead to tooth issues1. Infant formulas, on the other hand, create an acidic environment in the mouth that can dissolve precious tooth enamel2.
• Select natural products. Non-toxic toothpastes (with simple, easy to understand ingredients) give your child a chemical-free, tasty alternative to traditional products. Steer clear of products that contain antibacterial chemicals—these wipe out the good bacteria in the mouth that protect the teeth and gums.
• Provide whole foods rich in nutrients. Foods high in sugars and starches can quickly build up excessive biofilm on your child’s teeth, leading to early dental issues. Stay away from processed snacks and serve your child a whole-foods based diet to promote a healthy smile. In addition to cane sugar, you may even want to limit healthier forms of sweeteners like fruit juice, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and agave. Focus on calcium (strong enamel), zinc (hard teeth and bones), and vitamins K and D for a blast of tooth-friendly nutrients.
• Be aware of phytic acid. Grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes are all high in phytic acid, a compound in plants that can block absorption of important tooth-building nutrients like magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. If your child is experiencing active dental issues, you may want to avoid these entirely. Sprouting these foods can also help neutralize nutrient-binding phytic acid.
• Visit the dentist. The American Dental Association recommends visiting the dentist six months after your child’s first tooth first comes in, by their first birthday at the latest. Your dentist can help you determine if your child is at risk for any early childhood dental issues.The Perfect Tooth Brushing Technique
As a parent, you know you need to brush your child’s teeth, but the big question no one seems to answer (or even acknowledge) is “how”. No matter how hard you try, strong-willed toddlers often just won’t have any part of your attempts at oral care and the battle can feel like the antithesis to your parenting goals.
The good news is that implementing a consistent routine, simply tweaking your (and his) position, and inserting some serious fun into the process can turn the event into an enjoyable (and productive) time for all!
1. Connect with your toddler and tell him in a very loving way: "We are going to have to brush your teeth to keep you healthy, and we will help you if we need to".
2. Then, wrap his legs around your waist and lean him backwards so his head is in your partner’s lap (this way, he is not able to kick you and your partner can see inside his mouth while brushing).
3. Sing a fun song or talk about how you see what he had for dinner in his teeth while your partner holds his head with his legs and you hold his hands.
4. Your partner can then get in there and brush his teeth, and if he tries to clench his mouth, they can put their finger in the very back of his jaw to keep it open. Note: if he cries in the beginning, his open mouth will make it easier to brush his teeth well. And though the first week or two may involve a lot of pushback and struggle, once the routine is established and he knows what to expect, he’ll likely open his mouth wide for you each time. Your consistency and gentle communication throughout are key to getting over this hump and establishing the regimen as a normal and fun daily practice.
5. After the tooth brushing is done, have a huge celebration (we recommend silly dancing and high-fives) because you did it—you brushed his teeth and that was the goal (whether or not you had to help by restraining him or opening his mouth for him, or if there were tears involved is irrelevant). The mission was accomplished!
We mentioned that the first few weeks can be trying if your baby isn’t immediately enjoying the process, but this method is tried and true and you will eventually breakthrough to a fun and peaceful experience. Keep in mind that by sticking to your guns, you are gifting your child with a foundation of greater health and possibly averting painful and traumatic dental issues (and the associated mommy-guilt) that are incredibly common in children today.
Going Deeper: The Oral Microbiome
Daily care of your child’s teeth and gums is integral to dental health, but the oral microbiome is where total oral health really begins.
Perhaps you’ve already heard of the human microbiome, the colonies of trillions of microbes that live in and on our body. The good bacteria in our microbiome are responsible for a surprising number of bodily functions, such as helping us break down food and absorb nutrients, supporting our immune system, and even producing enzymes and vitamins.
The oral microbiome—consisting of nearly 800 different species of bacteria in the mouth, ears, nose, and throat—is an essential part of this vast network of microorganisms, and it has a significant effect on both oral and overall health.
You see, the mouth, nose, and throat are the gateways to the gut, where 80% of our immune system resides. We swallow approximately one trillion bacteria every day, so our oral microbiome is a constant source of bacteria (both good and bad) for the rest of our body. The good news is that a strong, balanced oral microbiome will work hard to keep out unwanted invaders that can lead to lingering sinus, ear, throat, upper respiratory, and dental issues.
However, modern life is full of daily factors that can make maintaining this microbial balance quite difficult. Things like the indiscriminate effects of antibiotics both as medicine and in our food supply, overzealous hygiene habits, too much time indoors, diet, and even stress can cause the good guy bacteria to lose their footing, paving the way for the bad guys to take over and eventually cause a host of problems.
How does an unbalanced oral microbiome affect your child’s teeth? Some harmful bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, live in the sticky biofilm on tooth surfaces. As good bacteria are depleted, S. mutans numbers increase, feeding on sugar in the diet to produce acids that break down healthy tooth enamel.
Probiotics for Tiny Teeth
The truth is, even if you are routinely brushing and flossing your toddler’s teeth and providing plenty of healthy food, if their oral microbiome is out of equilibrium then the bad guys can quickly gain control.
That’s why supplementing with oral probiotics and switching to a probiotic toothpaste are two of the best steps you can take on a daily basis to support your child’s oral (and whole body) health.
Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids ENT is a chewable probiotic formula with targeted strains of beneficial bacteria (including S. salivarius M18 and S. salivarius K12) that help crowd out the bad guys and discourage the biofilm that can stick to teeth.
In one study, S. salivarius M18 was able to inhibit undesirable bacteria by producing enzymes that counter acidity and biofilm formation3. In another trial, dental scores of children treated with the M18 probiotic for three months were significantly better than the scores of kids who weren’t given M184.
Hyperbiotics Activated Charcoal Probiotic Toothpaste takes microbial health one step further, with xylitol and coconut oil to keep harmful bacteria in check and L. paracasei to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. With its refreshing minty taste and pitch black color, toddlers just love playing pirate with this super fun paste when it’s time to brush teeth!
Remember, it’s not just the teeth and gums that need plenty of good bacteria—our whole body thrives on beneficial microbes! Adding a high-quality digestive probiotic like PRO-Kids to the mix will go the extra mile in keeping your child’s gut health in tip top shape as well.
And, even if you are working hard to follow all of these tips, your toddler’s teeth could still have poor enamel or other issues that lead to less than optimal dental health. If you find yourself in this boat, check out the diet discovered by Weston A. Price that recommends consuming high nutrient foods like organ meats, bone broth, high vitamin butter oil, cod liver oil, and raw dairy products while also avoiding foods high in antinutrients (like phytic acid).
As a parent, we would give our kids the sun and the moon and the stars if we could. And as insignificant as it may sound, taking care of your toddler’s teeth—as well as their entire microbial ecosystem—is a critical component of giving them a head start at a healthy and vibrant life.
1. Erickson, P.R., Mazhari, E. (1999). Investigation of the role of human breast milk in caries development. Pediatric Dentistry, 21(2), 86-90.
2. Erickson, P.R., McClintock, K.L., Green, N., & LaFleur, J. (1998). Estimation of the caries-related risk associated with infant formulas. Pediatric Dentistry, 20(7), 395-403.
3. Pierro, F. D., Zanvit, A., Nobili, P., Risso, P., & Fornaini, C. (2015). Cariogram outcome after 90 days of oral treatment with Streptococcus salivarius M18 in children at high risk for dental caries: Results of a randomized, controlled study. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dentistry, 107-113.
4. Burton, J. P., Drummond, B. K., Chilcott, C. N., Tagg, J. R., Thomson, W. M., Hale, J. D., & Wescombe, P. A. (2013). Influence of the probiotic Streptococcus salivarius strain M18 on indices of dental health in children: A randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 62(Pt_6), 875-884.
Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of three little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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