As the parent, you are your child’s greatest role model…they learn from you, and that includes how to look after their teeth. Your healthy habits quickly become their healthy habits.
It is incorrect to think that children don’t need to take care of their baby teeth because they will be replaced by their permanent teeth later in life. A child’s baby teeth can impact on how they eat, chew, talk and how their permanent teeth grow in. Taking care of them is very important and good oral hygiene habits should be started early.
So start them young – there are a few things you can do for their oral health.
Use a warm, wet washcloth to wipe over your baby’s gums after feeding and try to ensure you don’t put them to bed with a bottle that has juice or milk in it. The sugars in the juice and milk will settle on their gums and may cause tooth decay even when the teeth are not yet visible.
From the age of 12 months you can introduce them to a soft head toothbrush. You should use water and the toothbrush to clean the front and back of their teeth using a soft circular motion, twice a day – morning and night.
Around the age of 18 months you can introduce them to toothpaste. Remember to use a low fluoride toothpaste and a small amount: think the size of a pea.
Make tooth brushing time a fun routine –
- both the parent and child, or the whole family, could brush their teeth at the same time. You are their role model and by brushing together you set a positive example.
- play a favourite song during tooth brushing, or use a timer. You and your child should be brushing for 2 minutes twice a day.
- have your child choose their own toothbrush with a soft bristles – there are many with popular characters on them, or pick a favourite colour
- your child could be the super hero fighting the bad bacteria that destroy teeth.
- read tooth friendly books such as The Tooth Book by Dr Seuss and Brush Your Teeth Please by L McGuire.
- include talk about oral health when having chat time with your children, explain that food caught in between their teeth can cause damage to their teeth if it is not cleaned out, answer their questions about the importance of regular tooth brushing, and if you are not sure ask your dentist next time you are in…better yet…have your child ask when they are in for their next check up.
Continue to help your child with their brushing until the age of 7 / 8 years, guiding them to ensure it is done properly.
Once your child has some of their grown up teeth come through it is important they give their teeth grown up care. Continue with the tooth brushing for two minutes twice a day and introduce them to dental flossing.
Make dental hygiene a priority in the morning and night, be consistent and make it fun. That way you are helping to develop positive habits for life.