Here are some simple tips to help your child develop healthy teeth. It is very important to start good oral hygiene habits from when the teeth first appear in your baby’s mouth. Good diet and oral hygiene habits will stand them in good stead for a lifetime of healthy teeth.
1. Your child’s first visit to the dentist
Visit your paediatric dentist by the time your baby is aged 12 mo. This is to make sure that you are getting the right advice about feeding your baby and taking care of their new teeth. Diet advice is extremely important to make sure your baby’s teeth will be strong and healthy. For example, try to limit on demand feeding through the night once other solids are introduced. A baby who is having feeds through the night without tooth brushing and multiple carbohydrate snacks during the day is at increased risk of tooth decay.
2. Start cleaning teeth from when they first appear.
At first, you can use a clean damp face washer to wipe the teeth and gums. Later, when more teeth are present, you can start using a small soft baby tooth brush and a small smear of baby toothpaste. This should be done twice daily. Always use a small soft brush. This will allow gums to be cleaned properly. A medium or hard brush is too scratchy to clean the gum line comfortably and will increase the risk of gum disease. This applies to adults as well.
3. Limit saliva contacts.
Children get their oral flora (bacteria) from their primary carers. This means do not share cutlery, cups, drink bottles etc with your baby. Small amounts of saliva can transfer decay causing bacteria to your baby’s mouth.
4. If your child uses a dummy, make sure that, if it needs to be cleaned, (eg after falling on the floor) it can be properly cleaned and not just swiped through your mouth. This is another way bacteria can be transferred from a parent’s mouth to your baby.
5. The last thing that goes into your child’s mouth before bed is a toothbrush with fluoride toothpaste.
For babies, a smear of baby strength fluoride toothpaste and for young children a small dollop of low strength fluoride toothpaste. For children old enough to rinse and spit after brushing, make sure they are using a 6+ age fluoride toothpaste.
6. Brush twice daily – morning and night.
A parent needs to brush morning and before bed. Start flossing once back teeth touch together side by side
7. Encourage your child to drink water and milk only.
Sweetened drinks such as juice provide little nutritional value and are a source of fructose which is also a contributor to tooth decay. Sweet drinks are for special occasions and should not be part of everyday diet.
8. Limit processed snacks.
Anything that comes in a plastic packet is likely to be processed and a poor choice for your child’s health. While they may be convenient, good nutrition is best provided by foods that are raw or unprocessed. Fresh fruit ( but not more than 2 serves per day), dairy such as cheese, nuts (if allowed) and wholegrains are much better choices
9. Brush your child’s teeth until they are at least 8 years old.
Most kids don’t have the dexterity or attention span to clean every tooth properly until at least this age
10. Brush your own teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
Parents need good habits so kids can get a good example
11. Visit your dentist to make sure your teeth are healthy too.
Chances are that if you have cavities, you will pass on the decay causing bacteria to your child which greatly increases the risk of your child suffering from tooth decay.
12. Take your child to your paediatric dentist every 6 months.
Early visits should be fun and a way of introducing your child to the dentist and helping them gain trust. Later, if your child needs to have some dental treatment, they have already built up a “bank account of good dental experiences” which will help them cope with dental procedures. It is important that your child learns that the dentist is there to take care of them.