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Looking after your child’s dental hygiene

Starting good oral hygiene habits from a young age is an important part of ensuring children have a positive attitude towards dental care through the rest of their life.

How to maintain your child’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 2-3 you can start to teach your child about proper brushing technique and the importance of dental hygiene.
  • Brush their teeth again after they have finished to ensure all plaque is removed.
  • At around age 7 most children will have developed the dexterity to brush their teeth alone.
  • Introduce flossing when teeth are in contact.

 Use fluoridated toothpaste

  • Fluoride helps protect children’s teeth against premature loss of baby teeth due to decay.  Baby teeth are important to help guide the adult teeth developing underneath into the right place.
  • Teach children not to swallow toothpaste, spit it out, but do not rinse.
  • From birth to 18 months brush your child’s teeth without toothpaste.
  • From 18 months to 5 years old brush your child’s teeth with a small pea sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste (children’s toothpaste).
  • Once they are 5 years old use a small pea sized amount of fluoride toothpaste (adult toothpaste). If your child swallows the toothpaste continue using a low fluoride toothpaste.

 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. Subsequently frequent sugary snacks may mean your child’s mouth is always acidic, dramatically increasing the potential for decay.

 Make a dental appointment

  • Ensure your child visits the dentist or dental therapist twice a year.
  • It is a good idea to begin dental visits around your child’s first birthday.
  • 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” as it can create a sense of alarm and unease

How to make your child’s dental hygiene easier

Introduce kids to the dental environment early on

Getting your child familiar with the dental environment from a young age can help to prevent any anxieties being developed. A good way to do this is to take them along with you when you go in for your own dental check-up. You can take them in to get their own teeth counted!

Help them brush

Kids will need assistance brushing their teeth as they don’t have the dexterity needed to brush their own teeth until around age 7.  You can help guide their hand while they brush so they get used to where the brush should go and then let them have a go themselves. Always check their teeth after brushing as you will likely need to give them a proper brush yourself, especially in the hard-to-reach teeth at the back of the mouth. 

Make the experience fun!

It can be a challenge getting kids to look after their own teeth.  By making the experience fun they will be more interested in sticking to the routine.  Play music or create a game around brushing their teeth or let them to pick their own toothbrush in their favourite colour or character.

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