Dental Care For Children
Paediatrician Dr Sarah Donoghue answers some common questions:
WHEN DO BABIES START TEETHING?
Teeth can start to erupt from 3 months of age in infants, but dental eruption may be as late as 12 months in some children. They may arrive in any order, but most children have all their baby teeth by the age of 3 years.
HOW DO YOU CLEAN YOUR BABIES TEETH?
You can start cleaning your baby’s gums with a damp clean cloth a couple of times a day for the first few months to get them used to the sensation of their gums being gently brushed. As soon as teeth start to arrive you can clean them with a damp cloth or toothbrush. From the age of 18 months you can use a pea sized amount of low fluoride toothpaste on their toothbrush. The reason the toothpaste needs to be low fluoride is because they wont be able to reliably spit it out at this age. Most supermarkets will have low fluoride toothpastes that can be used up until the age of 6, following this; children can use adult toothpaste. From 2 and a half years it’s recommended to start daily flossing to remove the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
WHAT POSITION IS BEST FOR CLEANING YOUR BABY’S TEETH?
For teeth cleaning it’s best to adopt a cuddling type posture where your baby feels secure. Gently cupping their chin and using soft, circular motions with the tooth brush for cleaning the teeth and gum line. Children will need to be supervised to clean their teeth until the age of 7-8 years of age.
Following brushing your child’s toothbrush should be rinsed and left to air dry. The head of the toothbrush should not come into contact with the other tooth brushes of family members because the can allow transferring of the bacteria that cause tooth decay between tooth brushes. Toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months.
TIPS FOR MAINTAINING HEALTHY TEETH
- Brush teeth at least twice a day
- From 12 months of age water should be your child’s primary drink. Consumption of high sugar drinks (fruit juice, cordial, carbonated drinks such as lemonade or cola) increase the risk of dental caries.
- Avoid putting your child to bed with a bottle of milk. The sugar from the milk will give them caries. If your child wants a bottle of milk before bed, this should be accompanied by teeth cleaning immediately afterwards.
- Children need to have adequate calcium intake to keep their bones and teeth strong and healthy. Most children need 2-3 serves of calcium-rich food, such as a 250ml of milk or 2 slices of cheese. As they approach teenage years this requirement increases to 4-5 serves a day.
- The bacteria that cause tooth decay can be transmitted by kissing, sharing a toothbrush, spoon or dummy.