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5 Top Tips for Caring for Teeth and Gums

Jennifer Bright on

Whoever said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" might well have been talking about going to the dentist. A regular checkup is often covered by dental insurance, or costs about $150 out of pocket. But a filling costs $300 -- or much more!

Brushing your toddler's teeth is probably not your favorite thing to do, nor hers. But it's crucial. Dentists say that children aren't ready to brush their own teeth until they're around 7 years old. It's not until that age that children can move the bristles of a toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to get between the tooth and the gumline, where the plaque likes to party. So, you've got quite a long way to go!

Interestingly, 1 in 5 Americans admits to not brushing their teeth twice a day! Nevertheless, you should brush your toddler's teeth twice a day. It's a great idea to give her a chance to brush, too, but then make sure you give it a go-over.

Ideally, you should brush your toddler's teeth for two minutes. You could set an egg timer, count to 120 or buy a toothbrush that has a timer built in.

If you, or someone you know, can't afford to take the kids to the dentist, check into the American Dental Association's Give Kids a Smile Day. It provides free checkups for children in low-income families.

Here's how our Mommy M.D.s -- doctors who are also mothers -- help their own kids brush better.

"When my kids were toddlers, we lived in a home with well water, so it didn't have any fluoride," says Eva Mayer, M.D., a mom of a daughter and a son, an associate professor of pediatrics at Temple University and a pediatrician with St. Luke's Pediatrics Associates in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. "I had to give my kids those awful-tasting fluoride supplements. I got them the chewable tablets, which taste a little bit better than the liquid. I crumbled them up into yogurt or applesauce."

"After my daughter's teeth came in, I brushed her teeth and gums with a finger brush," says Jennifer Bacani McKenney, M.D., a mom of two and a family physician, in Fredonia, Kansas. "She loved it! It was a game for my daughter because she tried to bite the brush, so we had to be quick and efficient. We switched to a toddler toothbrush once she got a lot quicker at biting, and she got more teeth!"


"When my kids were toddlers and I brushed their teeth, we would practice saying the vowels in a long AAAA-EEE-IIII-OOOO-UUUU," says Jennifer Hanes, D.O., a mom of two and a wellness physician in Houston. "The various mouth shapes for the letters helped me reach all of their teeth and tongue. Plus, my kids learned their vowels quickly!"

"I started to brush my sons' teeth as soon as their teeth came in," says Heather Orman-Lubell, M.D., a mom of two sons and a pediatrician in private practice at Yardley Pediatrics of St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Pennsylvania. "It's so much easier to brush a baby's teeth than a toddler's. With a baby, you just brush the teeth and gums with gauze and water, and babies are generally tolerant of that. But some toddlers really don't like having their teeth brushed. You have to do it. It's not a choice."

"I brushed my sons' teeth twice a day, even if it was a struggle," Orman-Lubell adds. "I gave them positive feedback afterward, like a big hug. I wanted them to learn that brushing their teeth is quick, it's over and now you get a hug from Mom."

When to Call Your Doctor or Dentist

Injury or tooth decay can cause toddlers to lose their baby teeth long before those teeth are ready to fall out. Because baby teeth help the jawbone and muscles develop properly and save space for permanent teeth to come in, it's important to call your child's dentist if your child loses a tooth too early. Your dentist might recommend using a space maintainer to prevent other teeth from moving out of their positions into the empty space. If a lost baby tooth goes without treatment, your child will likely need extensive orthodontic work in the future.


Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, co-founder and CEO of family- and veteran- owned custom publisher Momosa Publishing, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years." She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.



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