Brushing your child's teeth
The best way to look after your baby’s teeth is to get into the habit of brushing them, even if there is only one! Use a soft toothbrush with water to begin with. Then at the age of 18 months choose a low-fluoride toothpaste suitable for use in children. It’s also important to begin flossing right from the start! Before their teeth arrive, get into good habits by wiping their gums with a soft cloth twice a day.
Don’t be too concerned if you can’t brush their teeth much at first. The most important thing is to get into the habit of brushing so your baby knows that it’s a part of their daily routine. As you get used to brushing your baby’s teeth, do it twice a day: once in the morning, and once just before bed.
As your child gets older, it may be tempting to let them brush their own teeth unassisted. Though it is important to teach your child to brush independently, it is a good idea to continue helping them brush their teeth till they’re around seven years old and can do it well enough on their own.
Cut down on sugar
Sugar is a source of food for the bacteria that live in our mouth. The bacteria produce acid, which can damage the outer surface of the tooth (called the enamel). While saliva in our mouth helps to repair this damage, if there is more damage than repair a hole in the tooth (known as a cavity) can develop.
Lollipops and sugary drinks in baby bottles can be especially damaging because they are in contact with your baby’s teeth for long periods of time and are more likely to cause decay. It is best to limit sweets as much as possible, and establish good healthy eating and cleaning habits early. Consider the following tips to reduce the amount of time your child’s teeth are in contact with sugar:
- When your baby has finished feeding, remove them from the breast or bottle
- Don’t put your baby to bed with a bottle
- Never put sweet drinks in a baby’s bottle
- Never dip dummies in sweet substances
- Ask for sugar-free medicines where possible
- Teach your child to drink from a cup from around six months of age
- For children over 12 months of age water should be the main drink or plain full-fat milk
- Fruit juice is not necessary or recommended for children due to its high sugar content and acidity
Sugar can be tricky to identify in different foods since they go by many different names. Some common names for sugar on ingredient lists include fructose, sucrose, dextrose, glucose. You may think that natural sources of sugar are okay but all types of sugars, whether natural sugars in fruits, added sugars or those in honey and fruit juice have the potential to cause tooth decay.
When should I take my baby to see a dentist?
The Australian Dental Association advises that the earlier parents begin taking their baby to the dentist, the better. As a good rule of thumb, you should start considering a dentist visit for your little one as soon as their teeth start to come out. Your dentist will be able to make sure that your baby’s teeth are all coming out as expected and give you valuable advice on how to keep your baby’s teeth healthy and strong.