Dental care for children is essential from an early age to help prevent tooth decay and establish good oral habits they can take into adulthood for a happy, healthy smile for life.
Did you know that tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children yet is largely preventable? According to the Australian Dental Association (ADA), 1 in 3 children will have experienced decay in at least one baby tooth by their fifth birthday.
No one wants to see their child struggle to socialise or eat their food because of poor oral health, yet sadly this is a painful reality for many youngsters. Dental infections can cause significant pain and lower your child’s self-esteem. No parent wants this for their child.
Let’s discuss how you can provide the best dental care for your child. We’ll start by discussing oral infections and answering common questions and concerns about oral health.
Dental care for children – oral health
Bacteria that live in the mouth and feed off sugars are the leading cause of tooth decay and poor dental health. Problems occur when the teeth aren’t cleaned properly, enabling harmful bacteria to thrive on the lingering sugar deposits, causing plaque build-up. Over time, this causes the tooth enamel to erode, creating the perfect environment for infection and cavities.
A recent poll shows one in three children fail to brush their teeth twice daily, which is a considerable concern, given that regular tooth brushing is the best way to prevent tooth decay and poor oral health.
Here are some tips that will help your child’s dental health.
For babies and toddlers
Dental care should commence even before your baby’s first tooth appears. Gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean wet facecloth. This is especially important after bottle or breastfeeding as milk contains lactose, a type of sugar that bacteria thrive on.
When the first tooth arrives, brush with a teether toothbrush using plain water at bedtime.
Up to 18 months of age, use fluoride-free toothpaste. Between 18 months and 2 years, parents can introduce a tiny smear of low-fluoride toothpaste twice daily into their oral health routine.
Parents mistakenly think dental care isn’t that important for young children, because permanent adult teeth will eventually replace their baby teeth. Unfortunately, premature tooth loss can cause adult teeth to come through misaligned, which means your child will need orthodontic dental care at some point.
Oral health in young children – making brushing fun
Most children up to 7 need supervision when brushing their teeth. Monitor their technique and set a timer to ensure they brush for 2 minutes for good dental health.
An electric toothbrush in a vivid colour or decorated with their favourite cartoon character makes dental care more fun.
Use children’s toothpaste with a fluoride content of no more than 550 ppm fluoride, and encourage your kid to floss between their teeth once a day to maintain good oral health.
Parents should also teach their children to brush their tongues to help lower the number of bacteria in their mouths. Be sure your child knows to brush their teeth before going to bed once all eating and drinking (except water) have taken place.
Our dentists can help show parents and children a good brushing and flossing technique and advise on food choices for good oral health.
What should I feed my child?
As parents, we know how hard it can be to keep kids away from sweets and sugary beverages, but please do your best to limit these to a special treat. A top dental care tip is discouraging snacking between meals on sugary foods to give teeth a break from acidity. The best time to allow a sweet treat is after dinner when there’s less time for the sugar to coat the teeth before it’s brushed away.
Healthy microbes are essential for protecting teeth and gums decay. Encouraging your child to consume nourishing food strengthens the bacteria that fight plaque.
Foods and snacks that encourage good dental health in children include:
- Milk, cheese and yoghurt – to protect the tooth enamel.
- Apples and other high-fibre fruit and vegetables – help scrub plaque away from teeth.
- Eggs – a great source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, which are vital minerals for good oral health.
- Leafy vegetables and broccoli – contain high levels of vitamins and minerals, benefitting your child’s oral health.
- Nuts and seeds – Nuts such as peanuts, cashews, almonds, and sunflower seeds aid dental care and help protect the teeth by replenishing minerals depleted by acids from other foods.
Dental care for children starts with a good diet.
Food and snacks to cut down on or avoid for your child’s dental health include:
- Citrus fruits – because of their high acidic content
- Bread, pasta and chips – these foods are high in starch and quickly convert to sugar when lodged between the teeth.
- Fizzy drinks – like cola
When should my child visit the dentist?
To promote good oral health, we encourage parents to bring their little ones to the dentist as soon as their first tooth appears.
Doing so acclimatises children to the dental environment and helps them understand that dental visits are essential to growing up.
Children should also visit the dentist:
- If you or they spot a dental problem
- If dark spots appear in the pits of their teeth
- Prior to playing contact sports
- If the upper and lower teeth are not coming together properly
Mouth safety for dental care
Mouth safety is another crucial part of dental care for children. If your child plays sports, they should wear a mouthguard that covers their teeth to prevent damage from injury. Talk to our dentists about a custom mouthguard for your child.
Need a children’s dentist?
Our dentists are experienced in dental care for children. We firmly believe that a positive dentist experience will set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health. Our friendly dentists make a dental visit fun and educational. Why not schedule an appointment for your child and put us to the test? Call CP Dental at any of our 3 locations or use our online booking form.
Teeth.org.au – Tooth Decay
The Conversation – Child tooth decay is on the rise, but few are brushing their teeth enough or seeing the dentist
Healthline – 9 Ways to Improve Your Gut Bacteria, Based on Science