Protecting your child's oral health
Nov 18 2014 By Dr. Lana Al Habash - Specialist Paediatric Dentist
The main influence in your child’s dental health will be from you, the parent. Children who get cavities in their baby teeth run a greater risk of developing cavities in their adult teeth. To ensure healthy teeth in the years to come, establishing good eating and brushing habits at a very early age is the best you can do for your child.
Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste (containing minimum 0.1% fluoride). For children under the age of 10, brushing without adult supervision has a limited effect in preventing tooth decay so adult supervision in important at this age.
- Once the first tooth has come through, bacteria appear that can cause tooth decay
- Bacteria grow on the surface of the teeth, forming a coating called plaque, even when we are not eating
- The plaque reacts with food, turning sugar into acid. The acid can then dissolve the enamel of your teeth resulting in tooth decay
- Fluoride prevents the acid from dissolving the enamel of your teeth
- Regular brushing = less plaque = little acid = no cavities
Most babies get their first tooth around 6-8 months. It is important to get started on brushing as soon as the first tooth appears. You can make brushing fun by letting your child play with the toothbrush. Use a toothbrush with super-soft bristles and use only a very tiny smear of toothpaste. Most of the baby teeth should be through by the age of 2. The enamel of these first teeth is more prone to tooth decay. Bad habits can lead to cavities in the course of only a few months. Beware of giving your baby bottles of milk, fruit or sugar drinks, especially at night and between meals. Saliva helps to protect the teeth from decay, but less saliva is produced at night, thereby providing less protection than during the day. If you need to give your child a drink when putting them to bed, water is the best option.
The last molars should be through and the set of 20 baby teeth complete by the age of 3. At this age they can develop cavities in the biting surfaces of the molars. Therefore it is a good idea to create a tooth brushing routine to clean all tooth surfaces. The inner surface near the tongue, the outer surface near the cheek and the biting surface must be brushed thoroughly. The more sugary foods your child eats, the greater the need for good brushing habits and fluoride. At this age most children have their first visit to a dental practice. Children are good at understanding what grown-ups say and feel so give your child a realistic and positive picture of what is going to happen. It is important for your child to trust the dentist or
dental hygienist. It is also best to help your child to stop using a dummy or sucking their thumb before the age of 4 to avoid problems with the position of the teeth (bite).
Children begin to lose their baby teeth during this period and new teeth will come through. The enamel on new teeth is more prone to decay, therefore parents must be particularly observant at this stage. In addition to brushing twice a day, your child ought to start flossing, particularly between the six year molars and neighboring teeth. It is important to establish good flossing habits in young children. Although your child is more independent than before, it is important to supervise brushing. Preventing decay will lay the foundation for healthy teeth for the rest of your child’s life.
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