Early habits stay with us for a lifetime, so give your babies, tots and kids their best chance in life and start some (simple) healthy habits now!
Oral hygiene for babies
Try to wean your child off breastfeeding or bottled milk by 12 months of age. This will help to minimise the chance for decay while helping to avoid your growth problems.
Avoid giving your child sugary beverages, and never let a child fall asleep with a bottle in their mouth.
Start cleaning your baby’s teeth or tooth as soon as the first tooth erupts. After feeding, always flush your child’s mouth with water or wipe the teeth with a damp cloth. Once the child’s teeth appear, you can start brushing using a child’s toothbrush with soft bristles. Milk, formula or juice has sugars which can encourage tooth decay.
Ideally, start to floss your tot’s teeth once a day.
DO NOT USE FLUORIDE TOOTHPASTE UNTIL A CHILD IS 18 MONTHS OF AGE
Your baby’s first dental appointment
The Australian Dental Association recommends that (generally speaking) your baby’s first appointment should be at one year of age or when the first tooth erupts – whichever happens first. Although this may seem relatively young, an early visit has many benefits. You and your dentist can discuss teething, brushing techniques, habits (such as thumb sucking), tooth decay and prevention, preventing trauma to their mouth and more. Your dentist will also likely examine the child’s mouth and check their bite. And, just as importantly, early visits to the dentist make the event a normal part of life – and something they should continue forever.
Tots’ & Toddlers’ Teeth
- Your child will need help learning to brush their teeth. Using a child’s toothbrush, gently brush their teeth and massage the gums using a soft, circular motion.
- Children can start using toothpaste from the age of 18 months.
- Floss your toddler’s teeth once a day. Ask your dental professional for help if you’re not sure you’re doing it right.
Checking for cavities
According to the ADA, along with regular visits to the dentist for checkups, try to regularly check the state of your child’s teeth by gently lifting their top and bottom lips and check for white patches on the teeth which are early warning signs of decay. These white patches can be reversed, so it’s essential you visit the dentist as soon as possible. Black, brown or grey spots are a potential sign of more serious tooth decay. Once again, book an appointment with your dentist ASAP.
Toddlers’ dental appointments
From the age of three, children should have a dental checkup approximately every six months (however, always speak to your dentist for their recommendations on frequency). Regular visits not only allow the dentist to check for caries but also to help educate kids in good oral healthcare and get the children thinking that visiting the dentist is a normal, healthy part of life.
Brushing: Children will need help brushing their teeth until they are seven or eight, according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA). However, it’s always good to supervise them after this time to make sure they’re brushing correctly. Your kids should brush their teeth twice a day using a gentle action with a soft bristle toothbrush. Only use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. By correctly brushing twice a day, they will help to reduce plaque build-up and tooth decay as well as maintain healthy gums.
Flossing: Ensure your children floss once a day. Flossing is just as important as brushing; however, it only needs to be performed once a day. Only flossing can remove plaque and debris stuck in-between spaces between the teeth that are unreachable through brushing.
Kids’ dental appointments:
Children should visit the dentist approximately every 12 months. Your dentist will determine the frequency, however. If you have health insurance, your dental checkup and/or scale and plan will likely be free. Further, if you are on the Family Tax Benefit A payments, you may qualify for the Child Dental Benefits Schedule (CDBS).
Healthy eating and drinking habits
Try to avoid giving your children any sugary drinks or beverages. Also, look for sugar-free medicines and supplements. If your child does have a sugary drink or beverage, encourage them to rinse their mouth with water or quickly brush their teeth.
Encourage your children to eat healthy, sugar-free, unprocessed foods. Raw and cooked vegetables, fruit, lean meats, nuts and cheese are all excellent options.
Tap water should always be the beverage of choice. Tap water is virtually free – and sugar-free – unlike most other drinks. Tap water also has the benefit added fluoride, which is one of the best ways of preventing cavities. Try to ignore any pseudoscience on the internet and social media that encourages you to remove fluoride from the water. Instead, take your advice from a qualified health professional. Fluoride, in the concentration provided in tap water is safe – and very good for teeth!
Sugary foods cause cavities! And they can happen faster than you think. Encourage your children to avoid foods that are high in sugar.
Wear a custom sports mouthguard
If your children play contact sports, they must visit the dentist and be fitted for a custom mouthguard. Only a custom mouthguard will offer adequate protection against tooth loss. Although cheap and popular, the over-the-counter boil and bite mouthguards have not been clinically proven to provide adequate protection against tooth loss.
The World Health Organisation considers community water fluoridation one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. Drinking fluoridated water helps to keep teeth strong by sealing the enamel and preventing tooth decay (cavities) by about 25% in children and adults. This makes a massive difference to the community’s dental health – and our hip pockets by avoiding unnecessary dental appointments to repair tooth decay.
If you are in a remote area that does not receive fluoridated water, talk to your dentist about this. They may recommend further supplementation through, for example, tablets or gels, if required.
Drinking fluoridated water is thoroughly recommended, but it’s not enough. Use fluoride toothpaste, twice a day (providing an individual is over 18 months of age). Additionally, your dental health practitioner will likely give you and your children a fluoride treatment after your routine scale and clean.