Dental Care for Children
Apart from helping your baby to chew and swallow their food as they grow, your child's first set of teeth will also help with your speech development and will assist the adult teeth to grow into place properly. So it is important that they are cared for properly, right from the beginning.
Follow simple tips to help care for your baby’s teeth:
- Do not allow your baby to fall asleep while sucking on a bottle. This can lead to a condition called bottle mouth. Bottle mouth affects the front teeth and causes decay. As the name suggests it occurs when a baby is left to suckle on a bottle to go to sleep or for comfort.
- Only allow your baby to drink water or milk from a bottle.
- Begin cleaning your baby’s teeth before they even poke through by gently rubbing their gums each morning and evening with a clean, damp, gentle cloth. (You can never start a good routine too early).
- Once your baby is drinking water, try to offer tap water that is fluoridated.
- Introduce toothpaste to your baby around the age of 2 years unless your dentist/ dental hygienist recommends otherwise. Various toothpastes suitable for toddlers and children are available in your local pharmacy or supermarket.
- Only use a pea sized amount of toothpaste and encourage your baby to spit any excess out and rinse.
- Introduce a soft bristle, small head toothbrush as soon as baby’s teeth erupt.
- You’re in charge of the brushing until your child is 5 or 6 years old. So while you can encourage them to give it a go you’ll be brushing for some time. Check out the handy tips below to help make it easier and fun.
- Chat to your dentist about when to introduce flossing to your baby’s dental care routine.
- Never share a toothbrush with your baby as you may introduce harmful bacteria to their mouth.
- Avoid sharing spoons with your baby as you may introduce harmful bacteria to their mouth. This also applies to their dummy of they have one. Wash it under a running tap rather than in your mouth.
- Avoid foods that can cause decay.
- Start visits to the dentist from an early age, even if it’s just to sit in the chair and become familiar with the process. The Australian Dental Association recommends that your baby have their first visit to a dentist around 6 months after their first tooth erupts, or at least by age 1.
- Always brush your baby’s teeth in front of a mirror; it will help to distract them.
- Try brushing your baby’s teeth while they are still sitting in the high chair. That way you will have your hands free and no wriggling baby to run away.
- As baby grows allow them to hold their toothbrush and do a little brushing.
- Create a routine so your baby knows what to expect when it’s time to brush.
- Use sounds to help your baby get the correct mouth shapes for brushing their teeth. Get them to say AAAhhhhhh so you can clean the flat surfaces and the insides of their teeth. Then use the sound EEEEeeeee to get them to make the mouth shape so you can clean the sides.
- Sing a song as part of your routine.
- Grab a book from the library about cleaning teeth and read it as often as possible to help reinforce the good messages about healthy teeth.
- Play a game where you both get to brush each other’s teeth – just be sure not to mix up the toothbrushes.
- Of course you can always resort to a start chart with a reward system. (Some may call it bribery, others call it resourceful parenting!)