FROM THE BLOG
8 Tips to Help Ensure Good Oral Health for Kids
Australia has seen a rise in tooth decay amongst little ones, with over 50% of 6-year olds showing signs of decay.
We only get one permanent set of teeth. Therefore, dental health is imperative! And there’s no better time to instil the importance of good oral health into your kids then whilst they are… well, kids! Humans are creatures of habits, and habits developed early on in life tend to stick with us for the long run.
As your Cabramatta children’s dentists, we have put together a list of tips to help ensure children’s good oral health.
Baby Teeth Vs. Adult Teeth
Taking care of your child’s teeth starts as early on as teething stages. A baby’s first teeth can start emerging anywhere between the 6 and 12-month-old mark. Usually, by the age of 3 years old, all baby teeth are present.
Of course, ‘baby teeth’ are all replaceable. But unhealthy baby teeth can lead to damage of the permanent teeth below them.
Between the ages of 5 and 6, baby teeth start to fall out and their permanent adult counterparts come through. The process of developing adult teeth, except for third molars (wisdom teeth), is usually complete by the age of 12.
By this time your child should have a good dental hygiene routine down pat. The list below will give you an idea of what it should include.
Tips for Kids Oral Health
#1 Brush Teeth and Gumline Twice Daily
Brushing teeth is an important part of removing the plaque that causes decay, on both our primary and adult teeth. As soon as there are teeth to be brushed in your child’s mouth, they should be brushed!
Brush twice a day with a toothbrush that is soft-bristled and has a small head. All tooth and gum surfaces should be gently brushed in a circular motion after breakfast and before bed.
Generally, children are unable to brush their own teeth until they have the skill to tie their shoelaces. Once they have the dexterity needed to do a good job, adult supervision is still recommended for younger children.
#2 Flossing Is A Must
When your child has two teeth side by side, the time has come to start flossing. This normally takes place from the age of 2 onwards. Note, flossing help is required for a while! Brushing your child’s teeth twice daily removes a lot of dental plaque. But, not all of it.
Flossing helps get to those hard to reach places under gums and between teeth. A great habit for children to develop early on!
#3 Use A Fluoride Toothpaste
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally. It is found in water, soil, rocks, veggies and grains. Fluoride plays a crucial role in preventing decay and can be supplemented in toothpaste.
Advertising has romanticised toothpaste use, slathering huge mountains of toothpaste onto toothbrushes. But, only a pea-sized amount should (ever) be used. Children should be encouraged to spit out the toothpaste after they have brushed and refrain from rinsing.
Whilst the lack of rinsing is encouraged, ingesting large amounts of fluoride toothpaste should be avoided. Before your child is capable of spitting, keep the use of fluoride toothpaste low or opt for a low fluoride option.
#4 Limit Sweet, Sugary Drinks
Sweet drinks, specifically soft drinks and fruit juice play a large role in tooth decay. Children’s primary teeth have weak enamel. This makes them more susceptible.
Drinks like fruit juice and sodas with ‘no added sugar’ can also contribute to decay. They contain natural sugars and acids that damage teeth.
These types of drinks should be limited, even if good dental hygiene routines are in place.
#5 Drink Tap Water Over Bottled Water
Sydney’s water comes from natural sources and is safe to drink. It undergoes filtering at a high standard, as per the Australian Water Guidelines. Fluoride levels are low in our environment, so it’s added in supplemental amounts to our tap water to help protect our teeth.
But this isn’t the case with store-bought bottled water. Bottlers rarely add fluoride to their products.
During the 1960’s, fluoride was not added to any water supply. Decay was widespread. Having your child drink only bottled water means they miss out on water fluoridation benefits.
#6 Consume Healthy Food and Avoid Snacking
Like drinks high in sugar, foods high in sugar lead to tooth decay and should be moderated.
It’s best that your child enjoys a diet that consists of all the food groups. Fresh fruit and veggies are an essential part of healthy development. And cheese, yoghurt and milk are great sources of calcium.
Our teeth are most vulnerable to decay when the PH level in our mouth drops below normal (7.0). Eating and drinking (beverages other than water) lower the PH level in mouths for a period. So, it’s best to keep your child’s eating to 3 or 4 mealtimes. Avoid constant snacking throughout the day.
It’s easiest to develop good eating habits in early childhood. Packing healthy, nutritious lunch boxes for your child gives them the best chance at forming these habits. Not rewarding good behaviour with ‘bad’ foods is another way to do this.
#7 Make Regular Visits to Your Local Oral Health Professional
When your baby gets his/her first tooth, regular trips to the dentist should begin. This helps with the early detection of any dental problems, including decay. Most issues, if caught early on, are treatable.
It is beneficial for children to get to know their local dentist. Your oral health professionals at Cabramatta Family Dentist can develop a dental plan for your child based on their needs.
It’s common to grow up with a ‘fear of the dentist’. But it is avoidable. Here are a few things that help make your child’s trips to the dentist positive:
- Explain why regular trips to the dentist are important to keep one healthy
- Talk positively about your dental experiences in front of children
- Highlight new and interesting elements of visiting the dentist
- Don’t use a trip to the dentist as a threat. For example, “if you don’t brush your teeth you’re going to have to go to the dentist!”.
#8 Use a Mouth Guard in Contact Sports or Activities
When your child begins taking part in school sports and activities that involve contact, a mouth guard is a good idea. Mouthguards help protect your child’s mouth from injury. Custom fitted ones are best.
Your child’s mouth will develop and change over time, for example, when their permanent teeth emerge. Mouthguards should be replaced accordingly. Your oral health care professional will be able to assess the fit at your child’s regular dental visits.
Keeping kids mouths clean and healthy is easy if you familiarise yourself with these tips. Maintaining children’s good oral hygiene encourages optimal dental development. It also protects them from infection and discomfort.
It’s important to create good dental habits for your child early on in life. Forming a good relationship with a health professional as a child will benefit long-term dental health.
As your family dentist in Cabramatta, we have been part of the community for a long time. We have been able to see some of our patients from toddlers through to university students and beyond! Our friendly team of professionals are here to make your child’s trip to the dentist a pleasant one.
If you have questions about your child’s dental health or want to book them in for a check-up, we’d love to hear from you!