Caring for your child’s teeth

Many parents have a difficult time judging how much dental care their children need. They know they want to prevent cavities, but they don't always know the best way to do so.

Good dental hygiene habits should begin before your child's first tooth comes in. Wiping your baby's gums with a soft damp cloth after feedings helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria. As soon as you child gets their first tooth, (usually at the age of about 6 months), it is time for you to start brushing their teeth with a small soft bristled toothbrush twice a day.

At what age should I schedule my child's first trip to the dentist? And when should my child be flossing? 

It is widely recommended that a child’s first dental visit take place soon after their first birthday. At this appointment, proper brushing and flossing techniques (yes, you should start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch) can be explained and a quick examination be performed with the child on mum or dad’s lap.

Cavities are formed by acid produced by bacteria after they ingest sugars from our diet. This acid softens the tooth surface and eventually produces a hole or cavity. With regular use, fluoride is taken up into the tooth surface and makes it less prone to the acid attack. As we have fluoridated water in Townsville, it is important not to start using children’s toothpaste until your child is at least 18 months. A small pea sized amount is all you need. The ingestion of too much fluoride can cause mottling and staining of their developing permanent adult teeth. Parents should always make sure that their children spit out all the toothpaste instead of swallowing.

Teaching child to brush teeth

How old will my child be before they can brush their teeth by themselves?

At the age of about 6, it is now safe for your child to start using adult toothpaste as the crowns on their developing adult teeth are now almost completely formed and they are more able to spit out all the toothpaste instead of swallowing.

Young children lack the coordination and dexterity to properly brush their own teeth and require help by an adult. For children up to the age of 6, an adult should be brushing their teeth for them morning and night. To get your child used to brushing, they should attempt to brush first, then mum or dad can do it again. The best way is to stand behind your child with him/her facing in the same direction as you. You then lean over and place a gentle hand on their chin as you brush with the other hand. The child leans back against your body so it is gentle and easy on both of you.

How old will my child be before they can brush their teeth by themselves?

From the ages of approximately 6-9 years, mum or dad should still be brushing their children’s teeth at night time, while supervising them in the morning. A fantastic tool to aid your child’s brushing is a product called “disclosing tablets”. It is a tablet, which when chewed, stains bacterial plaque red. To begin with, it can be used before brushing to show your child where they have to concentrate on. As you become more confident in their brushing, the tablets can be chewed after tooth cleaning and any areas that were missed will show up and your child can go and finish the job.

Brushing however, is only half the battle. Without a healthy diet, your child will still be prone to getting cavities. Avoiding or at l;east limiting sweets, sticky foods and between-meal snacks is good advice. Acidic drinks, such as soft drinks and orange juice should be kept to a minimum as they soften the enamel on your teeth, making them more prone to decay and wear. Have meals and snacks at regular times. Teeth-friendly snacks include fresh fruits and vegetables, and cheese and crackers.

Your children’s baby teeth do not just serve the purpose of helping them chew, but also have important roles in speech, swallowing and jaw development. One of the most important roles of your children’s baby teeth is holding the space for the adult teeth to come into. If a baby tooth is lost too early, teeth further back in the mouth can drift forward and close off the space for other adult teeth to come into, causing the need for future orthodontic work to correct the problem.