Poor oral health can affect a child’s self-esteem and the ability to speak and eat a healthy diet. It can also lead to pain, infection, and the need for dental treatment.
Unfortunately, tooth decay is among the most common health problems experienced by children. Each year, over 1,000 children under 8 years of age are hospitalised for fillings and extractions in South Australia. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable!
By following these simple steps, you can ensure your child has strong, healthy teeth, ready for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.
Even before the first tooth comes through, you can gently clean your baby’s gums with a soft, damp cloth or a silicone finger brush. This not only helps remove bacteria, but also gets them used to the sensation of oral care. Once that precious first tooth arrives, introduce a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. It’s important to gently brush the teeth and surrounding gums twice a day – morning and night. Toothpaste is not recommended until your child is 18 months of age. After this time, a pea-sized amount of low fluoride, children’s toothpaste should be used.
Make brushing a fun and interactive experience
Brush your own teeth alongside your child, sing songs or create a playful routine. This way, you can make brushing an enjoyable part of their daily routine. It’s important to assist your child with tooth brushing until they can effectively clean on their own, until at least 8 years of age. Let them have a turn, then help reach all the tricky spots to ensure a thorough clean.
Say no to bedtime bottles
Putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk, juice, or other sugary liquids is the main cause of tooth decay in young children. If your child still has a night-time milk drink before bed, brush their teeth afterwards. You can offer a cup of water if they still need something to soothe them before sleep. If you are bottle feeding, swap the bottle for a sipper cup from 6 months of age. You can also offer cooled, boiled tap water between meals.
Choose teeth friendly foods and drinks
Limit sugary snacks and drinks and offer nutritious alternatives, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Sticky foods like dried fruit and muesli bars, and sweet spreads like honey, jam and hazelnut spread, can contribute to tooth decay. Read the nutritional labels on processed snacks – many foods are promoted as ‘healthy’ but are high in sugar. Plain tap water is the best drink!
Schedule regular dental check-ups
Your child’s first dental visit should be at around 12-18 months of age. Regular check-ups help identify and prevent dental issues before they become major problems. Early dental visits also help to familiarise children with the dental environment, making future visits easier. Dental professionals will monitor your child’s dental development, provide guidance on oral care and ensure any potential issues are detected and addressed early.
Limit your child’s use of a dummy
If your toddler has a dummy, start gradually weaning them off it by around the age of two. Extended use can affect dental and speech development.
Check for early signs of tooth decay
Lift your child’s top lip once a month to have a closer look at their teeth and gums. This won’t take a minute and will allow you to spot any signs of tooth decay or other dental problems. If you notice any changes to your child’s teeth or gums, you should book a dental appointment. Identifying these problems early gives the best chance for timely intervention and prevention of further complications.
Lead by example
If you clean your own teeth regularly and choose a healthy diet, your child will be more likely to develop good oral health habits.
Request an appointment with SA Dental
Did you know, at SA Dental, there are no out of pocket costs for all preschool children? Also, all children are eligible to be seen at SA Dental from 0-18 years of age.
You may also be eligible for the Medicare Child Dental Benefits Schedule. This means you can access up to $1,052 worth of dental treatment for your child over two years!!
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