Taking Care of our Children’s teeth
May 04, 2022
We must teach good oral hygiene to our children from a young age. This helps to form healthy habits and routines that keep them smiling. But what exactly should we teach them? In this article, our Oral Hygienist answers some of these questions.

Author:

Ina Alberts

Taking care of your child’s teeth. Your questions answered.

 

Am I supposed to clean my newborn’s mouth?

Yes! The best is to use a clean piece of gauze, wrap it around your index finger and apply a pea-sized amount of Xylitol gel. Then, gently rub over the gums, tongue, and inside of cheeks at least twice daily. This will make your baby used to the mouth being cleaned and make a future brushing routine easier.

What beverages should be given in a bottle?

Milk or water is best. Do not add sugar or honey to the content, as once the first tooth has erupted, it can decay. Best not to make your child accustomed to sweet tastes. Let your baby drink at feeding times, and don’t allow them to go to bed with a bottle and sip milk repeatedly throughout the night. Fruit juices should also be given with care and, when offered, finished and not sipped on throughout the day. This can increase the risk of tooth decay. Water is best to relieve thirst and can be given at any time and as many times as wanted throughout the day. 

How often should I replace my child’s toothbrush?

Babies and children often bite down on their toothbrushes, resulting in quicker bristle wear. Replace the brush when the bristles flare or at least every three months. 

When is it safe for my child to start using an electric toothbrush?

This will differ from child to child as some children are comfortable with it and others are not. Usually, at around four years, a children’s electric brush can be introduced.

Snacking

Limit snacking and regular sugar intake to ensure healthy teeth. Instead, teach your child healthy food choices from an early age. When snacking, rather snack on cheese, yoghurt, crisps, biltong or fresh fruits rather than sticky sweets, fizzy drinks or chocolates. Offering water throughout the day to relieve thirst is also better than offering cold drinks or juices.

When do I start brushing my child’s teeth?

It would help if you started brushing when the first tooth appeared. Use a small, soft toothbrush and wet it with water. Use a fluoride-free toothpaste or Xylitol gel, but no fluoridated toothpaste at this stage. Brush twice daily (mornings and at night before your child goes to bed) in small circular motions over teeth and gums. Also, run the brush along gums where no teeth are present and over the tongue’s surface. This will make your child used to the feeling of a toothbrush in the mouth and make brushing and a dental hygiene routine easier later on.

When do I start using fluoride toothpaste?

As soon as your child can spit out the toothpaste, you can use a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice daily or if recommended by a dental professional. When your children have a larger sugar intake with age, you can start using toothpaste with higher fluoride content. Still use toothpaste appropriate to your child’s age and under adult supervision.

Up to what age should I brush my child’s teeth?

Children should brush their teeth under supervision by an adult until 7-8 years of age. It is a good idea to give your child a turn to brush when old enough, but then to complete the brushing routine by properly brushing your child’s teeth yourself. Then, as your child gets better at the process, allow them to do more and more themselves.

When should my child’s first dentist/ dental hygienist visit be?

A dentist visit by your child’s first birthday or six months after the first tooth erupts is recommended. This will involve a visual examination. Your child can visit the dental hygienist for a cleaning when they are willing to sit/ lie down in the dental chair. Even if your child does not allow us to clean their teeth at the visit, we can disclose/ color plaque and demonstrate effective brushing in their mouth in a fun way. Gradual and routine exposure to the dental environment will make them more familiar and comfortable. They will also grow up with better oral health awareness and enjoy a healthier smile!

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