Congratulations! The “terrible”, or “terrific”, two’s are now behind you! Your youngster has grown so much and is learning so many new things!
One thing that may not have changed from your child’s last birthday is the number of baby teeth they have. Children get a total of 20 primary or baby teeth. Your child may have had all of these on the second birthday or may have had a few more erupt over this past year.
At this age, it is important to continue the habit of good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day is essential using a small soft-bristled toothbrush and a small amount of ADA-approved kid-safe toothpaste. Your child is getting better and better at doing this by themselves, but it is still important to supervise and take a second pass over the teeth when they are done. Primary teeth are very important. It will be a few years before permanent teeth erupt and the primary teeth are needed for proper chewing and eating in the meantime.
It’s not too early to introduce flossing to your child’s dental hygiene routine. At first, you will need to do it for them, but gradually, again with supervision, you can instruct them to do this for themselves. Be sure to explain flossing is done to clean in between the teeth where the toothbrush can’t reach. To make it more “fun” for your child look for floss in a flavor your child enjoys. Your dentist is a good source of suggestions to help a young flosser learn.
Some children may have developed the habit of finger or thumb sucking. This is often done as a coping mechanism to calm, self-soothe or help fall asleep. Finger or thumb habits oftentimes spontaneously stop between the ages of 2 and 4 as children develop other coping mechanisms. At this age do not be overly concerned if it continues.
It will still be several years until a first visit to the orthodontist will be recommended. Your family dentist continues to be the best source of information for your growing child’s dental health. See them regularly for check-ups.