Oral Health Tips For Parents Of Young Children
Teaching your child about good oral hygiene from an early age is an important lesson that they will carry with them into adulthood. From preventing tooth decay to scheduling dental checkups, there are certain things you should be doing to stay on top of your child’s oral health.
Important Daily Practices
A study by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that 55% of those aged six (6) had experienced decay in their baby teeth. When it came to 12-year-olds, 48% had experienced decay in their permanent teeth. It’s good to get your kids into the habit of taking care of their teeth and gums on a daily basis in order to avoid decay.
From 0-18 months
Brushing teeth will remove the plaque that causes tooth decay. Once your baby’s teeth start to appear, you should use a toothbrush designed especially for babies to brush their teeth twice a day – morning and evening. Look for a toothbrush with soft, round bristles and a small head. You should use plain water to brush their teeth until they reach 18 months of age.
From 18 months to 7 years of age
After 18 months, you can start to use low-fluoride toothpaste developed specifically for children of this age. Be sure to read the instructions to ensure that it is suitable for your child. You only need to use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, and you should always make sure that they spit this out afterwards, but do not rinse.
Ensure to clean all surfaces of their teeth, as well as the gums. Since many children forget to brush the inner tooth surfaces and their molars, it helps if you encourage them to follow a set pattern. To further help remove decay-causing bacteria they should also gently brush their tongue using their toothbrush.
You can switch to standard fluoride toothpaste from about six (6) years of age unless otherwise advised by your healthcare professional. You should encourage them to brush their teeth for at least two (2) minutes. Setting a time or playing a song that lasts for two minutes is a great way of getting them into the habit of brushing their teeth for the recommended time.
From the age of about 2 and a half, you can also start flossing. This should be done at least twice a week, but it is best to get into a habit of doing this on a daily basis. This will help to remove bacteria between the teeth and keep gums healthy.
From 7 years of age
You will need to help your child brush their teeth until they are about seven (7) or eight (8) years old. Adult supervision is recommended, even once they are physically able to brush their own teeth. This should carry on until about the age of ten (10).
Think About Your Child’s Diet
What your kids eat and drink will have more of an impact on their teeth than you would expect. A healthy diet is not just important for their general health, but also for their oral health.
Avoid sugary drinks
Babies and toddlers do not need sweet drinks or fruit juice. These can lead to tooth decay and are not recommended for children under 12 months. Fruit juice contains natural sugar even if there is no added sugar, so avoid these for at least the first 12 months.
You should make water their main drink, and plain cow’s milk is a good additional choice for those aged over 12 months. When giving tap water to a baby under 12 months, it is always best to boil and cool it first. Tap water tends to contain fluoride, which will help protect teeth from decay.
Choose healthy meals and snacks
From around six (6) months of age, your child will start eating solid foods. Avoid giving them sweet foods regularly, so they do not become accustomed to it; babies will not have a preference for these foods, but will get used to it if they enjoy them regularly.
Your children will learn about food from watching you and your family eat; try to set a good example. From 12 months of age your child will be able to enjoy a wide range of food, just like you, so try and make healthy choices. Foods with high levels of sugar cause tooth decay and are more common than you may realise.
When Should My Child Visit the Dentist?
By the time your child starts school, they should have already visited an oral health professional. In fact, it is advised that they undergo an oral health assessment by the age of two (2) when their first milk teeth appear. These will usually first appear around 6 months old, and they should have all 20 by the age of two.
Getting them to visit an oral health professional from an early age will help them to get used to the smells, noises, and surroundings, so they are more relaxed during future visits.
It’s important that your child has regular check-ups, as these can help detect any issues early on. Early stages of tooth decay can be treated, so you want any problems to be seen to as soon as possible. Your oral health professional will discuss your child’s individual needs and advise how often they should have their teeth checked.
Of course, there are certain instances in which you should contact your oral health professional even if you don’t have a scheduled appointment:
- If a baby tooth is knocked out – do not attempt to put in back in place as this could cause damage to the adult tooth
- If your child knocks out an adult tooth – hold the tooth while avoiding the root and gently rinse it with milk or saline, but do not scrub. If your child is conscious, you should attempt to put the tooth back in the socket very gently. Hold the tooth in place by having your child bite softly on a handkerchief.
It’s important to start teaching your kids about good oral health from an early age. This will help them get into good habits they can continue for the rest of their lives. Remember, oral health is not just important for your child; it is important for the whole family. Parents can pass the bacteria that cause tooth decay on to their baby, so it’s important that you also practice good oral hygiene.