Children’s dental health

Food and drink are an important part of anybody’s dental health. See our section on food and drink in our at home section.

Why are baby teeth important?

Many people dismiss the importance of the primary dentition (baby teeth). However, these teeth perform some important functions aside from helping children to eat. Some of these include

  • Allowing for proper speech development
  • Importantly they act as space maintainers for the developing permanent dentition. If baby teeth are prematurely lost it can result in crowding of the adult teeth. This may require extractions and/or orthodontic treatment to rectify as the child grows.
  • Baby teeth have an important role in teaching children how to look after and maintain their teeth, setting them up for a lifetime of good dental habits and health
  • Children can be very self conscious regarding aesthetic concerns. If a child has missing or damaged teeth it can lead to a lack of self esteem and confidence

When should I bring my child to the dentist?

It is generally accepted that children should visit the dentist by the age of two and half. Not all children of this age will co-operate, however it is important to introduce them to the dental environment. If you are concerned about a dental issue with an infant, then please make an appointment regardless of their age.

A typical visit for a child will be fun. We encourage them to sit in the dental chair and go for a ride! We explain everything to them in simple terms that they can relate to. There are no unwelcome surprises. If a child does not want to co-operate, then we do not force the issue. We consider it so important that they have positive associations with the dentist.

In a typical child’s exam we will count their teeth, examine them for cavities, assess the child’s oral hygiene and occlusion (bite) and check for any oral abnormalities. We will then discuss with the child and the parent any information that is relevant, including oral hygiene, diet, future orthodontic requirements and habits, such as dummies and thumb sucking.

How do I clean my child’s teeth?

It is important to start cleaning your child’s teeth as soon as they erupt into their mouth. In an infant’s mouth you can use either a baby sized tooth brush or a soft cloth to wipe over their teeth. You should not use tooth paste until the child can reliably spit out. This may not be until they are between 2 and 3 three years old. During the in between stage, where you child is able to spit out some, but not all of their toothpaste, it is recommended that you simply dip a couple of bristles into the half strength fluoride children’s toothpaste. This very small amount of toothpaste will give the child the sensation of a foaming toothpaste, was well as the taste. Importantly it will also protect their teeth with a fluoride application. Once your child is able to consistently spit out their toothpaste you can place half pea sized amount of junior toothpaste onto their brush. Always encourage them to spit it all out.

We recommend that parents clean their children’s teeth up to around ten years of age. Children aged older than six should be encouraged to brush independently, this should then be followed by a helping parental hand. We suggest that it should take around two minutes to brush a young child’s mouth. As more adult teeth erupt, this time lengthens to two and half minutes. The preferred technique involves a gentle circular motion, that touches on the gums. The only area where we encourage scrubbing is on the chewing surfaces.

There are several reasons that we do not want children to swallow toothpaste. The most common side effect that a child who swallows their toothpaste could experience is fluorosis. Fluorosis manifests as white or brown spots in the enamel of a tooth. These develop if the tooth is exposed to excess fluoride during development. These marks are permanent and in some instances the enamel can be so weakened it leads to cavities. It is also important to know that excess fluoride consumption can be toxic. If a small child was to eat an entire tube of adult strength toothpaste it could be lethal. It is always a good idea to store your toothpastes out of reach of small children.

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