Once your toddler's first teeth are through, it's important to take her along to the dentist for regular checks. This will ensure that any problems with decay are detected early, and will help your child get used to the experience.

The chair
Talk to her about the trip to the dentist ahead of time so she knows what to expect. Explain that the dentist will look in her mouth and count her teeth, using his fingers and maybe a tiny mirror to check all is well.

On the day, maybe get the dentist to have a quick look in your mouth first, so show it's not so scary. If your child is nervous, let her sit on your lap in the dentist's chair. The session won't last more than a few minutes.

Keeping teeth clean
What you need
A small, soft bristled tooth brush is good. Consider investing in a rechargable toothbrush to make cleaning easier and more fun. Use a pea-sized amount of specially formulated child's toothpaste – don't use adult toothpaste as this contains too much fluoride.

When to brush
Twice a day: after breakfast and before bed. Decay occurs when the natural bacteria in the mouth mixes with sugars in bits of food left on the teeth. An acid is then produced which attacks the tooth's protective layer of enamel.

How to brush
Sit your toddler on your lap facing away from you, or stand behind her, and gently hold her forehead to keep her still. Very gently massage the teeth and gums with the brush paying special attention to the molars as food can easily stick to their irregular surfaces. Don't put too much pressure on the teeth. Encourage her to spit when you've finished so she doesn't swallow too much fluoride. You should brush for two or three minutes – set a timer if it helps!

Can't brush…won't brush!
What can you do if your toddler refuses to open her mouth and let you in?

  • Tell her she can brush your teeth for you first – if she'll let you do hers afterwards.
  • Promise her a song or a story while you brush.
  • Let her choose her own toothbrush – colourful or crazy novelty brushes work just as well and can make brushing much more fun when you're a toddler. There are even some that play tunes as you brush!
  • Sit her in front of a mirror and have a giggle together over the funny faces she's making.

Did you know?
Too much fluoride is not good for your child (or you!). It's important to encourage your child to spit rather than swallow the toothpaste.