With my knowledge as an oral hygienist, it was my experience at home that made me realize things are not always as easy as the book says, therefore I'll give you a few guidelines and tips to help keep your baby's teeth healthy.

My general time line and guide for taking care of your child’s teeth are from birth to 7 years of age; allow me to explain in a little more detail.

4-24 Months

  • As soon as the first tooth appears, brush their teeth 2 times a day with a small, soft toothbrush. Silicone toothbrushes are very easy to clean and very gentle on a baby's gums. 
  • Use fluoride free tooth gel or low fluoride toothpaste.
  • Schedule the first dental check-up before his or her first birthday.

2-3 Years

  • Encourage your child to brush on his or her own (parents should still supervise until age 6-7)
  • Brush 2 times a day for 2 minutes
  • Teach your child not to swallow the toothpaste and use a small amount.
  • Schedule regular dental check-ups every 6 months

4-7 Years

  • Brush teeth morning and night for 2 minutes
  • Begin flossing as soon as permanent teeth start to erupt
  • Use a child safe fluoride toothpaste for cavity protection

Tips and advice on how to tackle cleaning the teeth of your toddler with toothbrush tantrums:

  • Make brushing an interesting event by using a colourful toothbrush, a toothbrush with a light or even sound.
  • Use toothpaste that your child likes, try all the different ones until they find one they like.
  • Let someone else brush your child's teeth if every brushing session ends up in a fight. (Dad or older brother)
  • Change the scenery, go and brush outside; brush next to the garden gnome; brush in the kitchen.
  • Role play. Let your child be the dentist and you lie with your head in her lap, she can brush your teeth with your toothbrush. Then you swop around.
  • Create dental awareness by reading picture books about brushing teeth or by making a poster with your child about a healthy mouth.
  • Do not give up. Your child will soon realize cleaning her teeth is not negotiable.
  • Monkey See Monkey Do!  Lead by example and brush your teeth when your little one does.  Let them watch and learn how you brush and use floss.

I hope that these few tips will make "toothbrush time" that little bit easier.

Natasha van Oudtshoorn – Oral Hygienist

This ‘Letter from a Mom’ is used with the consent of Bumbles Cookery Club:  www.bumblescookeryclub.co.za


Sr Ida Bester

From one to three years, your child will make the big transition from infancy to childhood. During this phase it is very important to create a foundation of solid nutrition for healthy later years.

The biggest problem now is that they will be choosy about what and how much they eat. The way they think, act and eat can lead to frustration in parents.

  • They don’t eat what you want them to eat or they play with their food and expect you to play, too.
  • They take ages to swallow one mouthful.
  • They throw a tantrum when they are denied a sweet.
  • They will go on hunger strikes.
  • They want to eat at the most awkward times in the most inconvenient places.

Good news moms! A healthy child has never died of hunger!

Your child is still in a phase of rapid development and the time between one and three years covers a major learning stage in which his brain almost doubles in size. Physiological and nutritional needs are fairly specific and it is essential that small children eat a good variety of healthy foods to satisfy their highly specialised needs. Although toddlers grow at a slower rate than babies, they still need enough energy and nutrients from food to fuel this active play and growth phase. A car cannot operate on water – it needs petrol!

Common reasons why toddlers refuse to eat

  • Teething. Remember at this stage they are cutting their molars and eye teeth. This can be extremely painful and usually goes hand-in-hand with cold symptoms and irritability.
  • Sore throat.

Remember, we all have appetite fluctuations from day to day or even from meal to meal. Never be tempted to force-feed because this can result in a lifelong aversion to certain foods.

Toddler years are the ideal time to help children to form a positive attitude towards food and to develop sound eating habits. It is well documented that early teaching of healthy eating habits reduces the risk of obesity and heart disease as well as metabolic syndrome in later years.

Tips on feeding:

  • Offer small portions, several times a day. Remember the toddler’s stomach is only the size of her little fist. They have small tummies but unique energy needs. Frequency is much more important than quantity.
  • Listen and trust your child’s hunger cues. If they have had enough, respect it; they will eat when they are hungry. But remember not to become an “obedient slave” parent who prepares one dish after another when they don’t want to eat. Take away the food that you have offered when they don’t want it, and when they come back after an hour to say they are hungry, offer the same food.
  • Avoid clean plate practice and overeating. This will either cause obesity or an aversion to certain food as they grow up.
  • Offer at least one food that you know they will eat at every meal.
  • Try to keep to an eating routine. This will certainly lead to a happier mealtime and snack time approach.
  • Let them eat after a favourite activity. They are usually relaxed and less distracted.
  • Eat with your toddler; if they never see you eating they won’t eat. After all, a family that eats together and prays together, stays together.
  • Encourage them to feed themselves. Although this can result in mess, remember it is an important part of a child’s development.

Sr Ida Bester, www.babywhisperers.co.za