Dear Mr. Dad: My wife thinks we should be brushing our 2-year old’s teeth every night. But the nights I put our daughter to bed, she refuses to let me brush her teeth. Is it really necessary at this age? Isn’t she going to lose these teeth in a few years anyway?
A: The quick answer is Yes and Yes. Yes, your daughter will lose her primary teeth (also called “baby teeth”)—the first ones when she’s around six, the last ones by the time she’s 13. And yes, even though they’re in her mouth temporarily, it’s important to take care of them while they’re there. First of all, they’ll help her adult teeth come in straight. Second, she needs those teeth as she learns to speak. And third, they’ll help her chew her food properly. Baby teeth are just as susceptible to cavities as their adult mouthmates. And most dentists will tell you that tooth decay is an infection, one that can harm your child’s overall health. Oh, and if you think getting her to brush her teeth is hard now, imagine how hard it’ll be if she needs fillings.
Dr. Oana Romasan, a Florida-based pediatric dentist (smileykidz.com), recommends that parents brush their children’s teeth as soon as they appear. Using a soft-bristle brush and only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, brush each tooth in a gentle circular motion. Be sure to get the inside, outside, and chewing surface of every tooth, and finish up by brushing her tongue (to remove build-up of plaque- and bad-breath-causing bacteria).