3 minute read
Oral health is important at all ages, but very young children have to rely on their parents or other caregivers to give their teeth and gums the care they need.
Your child’s baby teeth act as markers for adult teeth to come through and while they are going to fall out one day, they still need to be cared for just like permanent teeth do. Good oral hygiene habits help children to avoid tooth decay and other problems that could have a long-term impact.
Read these baby and toddler teeth care tips to find answers to common questions such as:
- When should I start brushing my baby’s teeth?
- Do you need to floss baby teeth?
- What foods and drinks are bad for teeth?
- Do dummies damage teeth?
- When should I visit a children’s dentist?
1. Start cleaning your baby’s teeth as soon as they have them
Most infants get their first teeth around 6 months, but some children can take a little longer. Teeth can be vulnerable to plaque as soon as they erupt, so twice-daily brushing can help children to avoid cavities and fillings.
Use a small toothbrush that’s the right size for your child’s mouth and brush gently with water until your baby reaches 18 months. Just like older kids and adults, baby teeth should be brushed twice a day to remove plaque that may have built up since their last clean.
2. Use low-fluoride toothpaste from 18 months
Dentists normally recommend introducing a pea-sized amount of low-fluoride children’s toothpaste from around 18 months until the child is older, but this can depend on their individual needs.
Encourage your child not to swallow the toothpaste so they don’t ingest excess fluoride and don’t rinse all the toothpaste off their teeth so they remain protected for longer.
3. Flossing is important too
Food and plaque can hide in the narrow spaces between teeth where a toothbrush can’t reach. You should start flossing your child’s teeth when they start to grow closer together. This usually happens from the age of 2.
Flossing kids’ teeth can be tricky, but you may find them more willing if they’re able to cut the floss from the role themselves. Show them how you floss with your own piece and then ask them to give it a go.
4. Don’t put babies to sleep with a bottle
Breast milk and formula are good for babies’ teeth, but they also contain sugars, and prolonged contact can cause damage. This can happen if you let your child drink from their bottle while going to sleep, which may also be a choking hazard.
Older babies can be taught to drink from a cup from around 6 months and they should be ready to leave the bottle behind by 12 months. Toddlers can start drinking full-fat cows milk from 1 year of age to provide their teeth and bones with calcium and other important nutrients.
5. Make tap water the main drink for toddlers
After 12 months, water should be your child’s main drink, as it helps them to stay hydrated and supports saliva in rinsing their mouth. For children under 1 year, water should be boiled and cooled first for safety.
Most local water supplies in Australia have fluoride added at safe levels, this means that tap water gives extra protection to children’s teeth compared to bottled water.
6. Avoid sugary drinks and snacks
Babies and toddlers don’t crave sugar until they get a taste for it. Limiting sugary snacks to occasional treats and not giving your baby fruit juice, flavoured milk or other sweet drinks will help to prevent tooth decay and reduce their risk of developing health conditions later in life.
We recommend checking the sugar content on food labels before you buy products and to learn how to spot sugar hiding under other names, like fructose, glucose and corn syrup. The higher an ingredient appears on the list, the higher its quantity in that product.
The recommended daily intake for added sugars for children aged 3-12 years is no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar per day, or less than 10% of their total daily energy intake.
7. Offer a wide variety of healthy foods
From 12 months, toddlers can enjoy many of the same foods as the rest of the family – so it’s important that everyone sets a good example.
A balanced diet gives children more of the vitamins and minerals they need to support healthy teeth and gums, as well as their overall health and growth.
8. Wean toddlers off dummies
Many toddlers find dummies comforting, and most will stop needing them at the appropriate time. But for children who continue to suck dummies or fingers after the age of 1, this may affect the development of their teeth and jaws, or even their speech. Your dentist can give you advice if you need help getting rid of the dummy.
9. See their dentist by their first birthday
Babies should have their first dental appointment around 6 months after their first tooth erupts, which is usually around their first birthday.
This first visit is mainly a chance for them to get familiar with the dental chair and clinic surroundings. If they feel comfortable opening their mouth, their dentist can check their teeth using a mirror to look for any signs of decay or other possible concerns.
Regular check-ups and oral health assessments will usually begin by 2 years of age. These are recommended every 6 to 12 months, depending on your child’s oral health needs. X-rays are not normally used during routine check-ups until a child is 6 years old.
10. Look after your own oral health
Taking good care of your own teeth and gums helps to set a good example to little ones, but that’s not the only reason why it’s important. If you have poor oral hygiene, this could put your child at risk.
Feeding from the same spoon or cup as your child may pass harmful bacteria to their mouths. You should also never share toothbrushes and make sure you replace your toothbrush head every 3 months.
See a children’s dentist in Kelmscott and Armadale
If your child is due for a check-up, or you want some advice about caring for their teeth and gmus, our experienced kids’ dentists at Kelmscott Dental can help. We provide gentle dental care in Perth for children of all ages to help kickstart good oral health habits for life.