Oral health tips for children
First teeth normally appear when a baby is about six months old, and your child should have all 20 ‘baby’ teeth by the time they are about 2 1/2 years old. Permanent teeth will start to appear when the child is about six.
Although they are not permanent, baby teeth are very important:
- they help children to bite and chew;
- they are a guide for the adult teeth;
- they are important in speech development; and,
- they are important for a child’s self-confidence and smile.
Research has shown that the earlier you start to care for your children’s teeth, the less likely they are to suffer from tooth decay.
You should start brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. Fluoride toothpaste is not recommended for children under two (unless advised by your dentist). Choose a toothbrush with a small head and soft bristles, and brush twice a day, in the morning and before bed. Allow children over two to brush their own teeth, but ALWAYS supervise children under ten when they are brushing their teeth. Use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste for children over two and encourage them to SPIT, DON’T RINSE.
Making sure that your children have a healthy diet is also very important to prevent tooth decay:
- keep sugary foods and drinks to mealtimes only;
- try to choose healthy snacks, such as fruit, vegetables or plain yoghurts;
- milk and water are the most ‘tooth-friendly’ drinks for your children;
- breastfeeding is beneficial for your child’s development. Try to breastfeed at routine intervals, as even breast milk in constant contact with a baby’s teeth can cause decay;
- always check food labels for other types of sugar such as glucose, maltose and sucrose, as they can also harm teeth;
- never let your child sleep with a bottle or feeder in his/her mouth;
- encourage children to drink from a beaker or cup as soon as they are able to;
- never dip a soother in sugar, honey or anything sweet before giving it to your child; and,
- if possible, ask for sugar free medicine.
Bring your child to a dentist straight away if his/her teeth are accidentally banged or damaged.
If any adult tooth is knocked out, follow these simple steps:
- find the tooth;
- put it back in the socket if you can
- if this is not possible place it in a cup of cold milk – DON’T WASH IT; and,
- go to your dentist immediately.
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