Top tips for children’s dental hygiene

children's dental hygiene

It’s important to look after your child’s teeth and set good oral hygiene habits from a young age. Here are some tips for children’s dental hygiene:

Children’s dental hygiene should start early

  • Run a clean damp cloth over your child’s gums after each feed to clean away harmful bacteria.
  • When your child starts teething you can brush their teeth with an infant toothbrush and water.
  • At age 2 to 3 you can start to teach your child about proper brushing technique and the importance of dental hygiene.
  • You should follow up your child’s brushing efforts by brushing their teeth again to ensure all plaque is removed.
  • At approximately age 6 most children will have developed the dexterity to brush their teeth alone. It is still important to supervise your child’s dental care routine.
  • Introduce flossing when teeth are in contact.

 Fluoridated toothpaste for children’s dental care

  • Fluoride helps protect against tooth decay in children, and helps prevent early loss of baby teeth due to decay. Baby teeth are important to help guide the adult teeth developing underneath into the right place.
  • Melbourne’s water supply is fluoridated: use the following tips as a guideline to toothpaste use for your child;
  • Teach children not to swallow toothpaste, spit it out, but do not rinse.
  • Birth to 18 months: Brush your child’s teeth without toothpaste.
  • 18 months to 5 years old: Brush your child’s teeth with a small pea sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste (children’s toothpaste).
  • 5 years old and above: Use a small pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste (adult toothpaste). If your child swallows the toothpaste continue using a low fluoride toothpaste.
  • If your local water supply is non-fluoridated, begin using a low fluoride toothpaste for your child from 6 months of age.

 Prevention is key

  • Do not let your child go to sleep with a bottle filled with anything other than water. If teeth are frequently exposed to sugar containing foods or drink for long period of time, the risk of decay increases significantly. Breast milk and formula also contain sugars.
  • Pacifiers should be weaned off by age 2 to 3 at the latest. Using a pacifier long term can affect the alignment of your child’s teeth.
  • Avoid sugar, soft drinks and juices, these should be for special occasions only. With soft drink and juice try to get those with low or no sugar, and dilute with water.
  • When your child ingests sugars it takes the saliva a minimum of 30 mins to neutralise the acidity that is created by decay producing bacteria. So frequent sugary snack may mean that your child’s mouth is always acidic, increasing the potential for decay dramatically.

 Make a dental appointment

  • Ensuring you visit your dentist or dental therapist twice a year is vital for your child’s dental health.
  • It is a good idea to begin dental visits around your child’s first birthday. This helps by introducing them to a dental setting and preventing anxiety in later years.
  • Your dental practitioner will teach you how to prevent dental disease. They will check for cavities and any dental developmental issues.
  • Your dental practitioner may also recommend other preventative options such as dental sealants or dental pastes to protect your child’s teeth against decay. Sealants prevent food from getting stuck in the grooves, on the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
  • If you have any anxieties about a dental visit yourself, it is important not to convey this to your child. Avoid words such as “hurt”, “pain” or “needle”. This only creates sense of alarm and unease in your child, and introduces possibilities that they may not have thought of.

Sandy Kaur
BOH (Griff)
Dental Hygienist and Therapist