Prevention of dental problems is the key to healthy children’s teeth and is a focus of paediatric dentistry. Most children have a full set of 20 baby (or primary) teeth by age two-and-a-half, while permanent (or secondary) teeth appear between ages six and 13. Yet many parents are unsure when children should get their first toothbrush and have their first dental check.
When should teeth-brushing start?
Once your child’s little tooth buds appear, it’s best to clean them with dampened soft gauze from the chemist. Caring for baby teeth is important—it ensures that permanent second teeth come through in the right position. Between the ages of one and two, most children are ready to start gentle teeth brushing morning and night. We recommend using a soft-bristled brush with a small head and a little fluoridated child’s toothpaste.
Your child’s first dental check-up
Some parents don’t take their children to the dentist unless there’s an obvious pain or growth problem. Unfortunately, by then the issue may be advanced and more difficult to treat. With paediatric dentistry, we prefer to see children for their first dental visit at around the age of two.
Making dental visits fun
At Freedom Dental we make children’s visits very positive and all about them. Often parents bring siblings in together. We offer children plenty of TV programs and cartoons, such as Peppa Pig, to watch so they feel completely at ease while in the dental chair. This helps children feel relaxed so that coming for a dental visit again is something they look forward to.
Yearly visits are then recommended so your dentist can check on the growth and development of your child’s teeth and catch any issues early. We also recommend ways that parents can make brushing their teeth fun, such as using an electronic toothbrush or a motivating sticker chart.
Thumb sucking and sweets
As well as checking children’s teeth, we offer parents advice on healthy lifestyle habits, such as swapping juice for water, minimising sweets, avoiding sweetener in a baby’s bottle and avoiding bottles at bedtime. These strategies are a priority in paediatric dentistry. They help reduce the risk of longer-term issues for children’s teeth, such as fillings, which can occur as early as primary school.
If a child is constantly sucking on a dummy or thumb, it may adversely affect their speech development, facial structure and jaw development. This habit is often due to anxiety and a child’s desire to self-soothe. As a negative reaction from Mum or Dad may lead a child to suck more, we encourage parents to reward their child for not doing it. This empowers parents to change unhelpful behaviour that could lead to the need for orthodontics down the track.
How important is fluoride?
Research in the US and Australia has shown that children are getting less fluoride because they are drinking more bottled and filtered water. As a result, we’re starting to see a rise in tooth decay, which was at very low levels 20 years ago. For this reason, we encourage parents to give their children tap water, which is free, fluoridated and available everywhere.
Want to learn more about dentistry for children? Click on the link to read more on our Paediatric Dentistry page.