11 dental care tips for children under 5!
Every parent wants their child to have a happy, healthy smile. For young children, particularly under the age of five – specialist dental care is required to ensure those pearly whites stay bright and beautiful right throughout childhood.
Unfortunately, children don’t come with a manual and a lot of those early years of parenting can come down to guesswork. But thankfully, you’re not alone when it comes to setting your child up for great dental health.
So, let’s get your little health hero on the best possible path for great oral wellness. Here are the top 11 questions that we often get asked at Macarthur Paediatric Dentistry to help get you started.
WHY ARE BABY TEETH SO IMPORTANT?
Not only do the baby teeth help your child to chew and function. They help to keep spaces and guide the adult teeth into their positions.
HOW CAN MY KID’S TEETH IMPACT THEIR OVERALL HEALTH?
Those small little chompers may not seem important at first, but they actually have a huge impact on your child’s overall health and quality of life. This is because teeth have the ability to influence your child’s quality of life, the way they eat food and their overall appearance.
WHEN SHOULD I START BRUSHING MY CHILD’S TEETH?
Ideally as soon as they have them! This is an important daily habit that sets up your child’s oral health for their entire life. No matter how young or old, teeth can accumulate plaque that can lead to decay and other problems. Start by using a small baby toothbrush dipped in water and brush the tooth / teeth and gums gently. As your child reaches 12-18 months, depending on advice from your dentist, switch to a fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure to have a conversation with your dentist about what toothpaste and when to switch toothpastes.
WILL THUMB-SUCKING OR USING A DUMMY (PACIFIER) RUIN MY KID’S TEETH?
Firstly, let’s accept it – sucking is a basic infantile instinct. There is little reason for concern unless the habit is prolonged beyond the early years of life.
If the benefits of pacifier use outweigh the long-term risks, then so be it. If it allows the already challenging task of parenting newborns to be a little easier and helps comfort your baby and allows you to gain some extra sleep, then so be it. However, prolonged use of a dummy or thumb-sucking over long periods of time beyond the first few years of life could cause potential changes in the structure of your child’s dental development which may then require intervention.
Therefore, it is ideal to stop these habits following the first year of life to reduce the chances of dental issues later.
WHEN SHOULD MY CHILD HAVE THEIR FIRST DENTIST VISIT?
Ideally your child should have their first dental appointment by their first birthday, or no longer than six months after they get their first teeth. This is an exciting milestone which sets your child up for good oral health as they grow and develop throughout their childhood.
HOW SHOULD I PREP MY CHILD SO THEY DON’T GET NERVOUS OR FRIGHTENED?
We know from research that parents with dental fears and anxiety pass these on to their children.
Having a calm approach with a relaxed and positive outlook is indeed vital. The more positive you are about the visit, the more optimistic and open your child will generally be. Dental visits should be made to be a routine part of life, rather than a regular horror visit. Many books and websites can be used to guide children’s thoughts on this and create positive perceptions of upcoming visits.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT AT OUR FIRST DENTIST APPOINTMENT?
Your child’s first dental visit should be friendly, relaxed and fun! The idea is to get them comfortable with a dentist checking their teeth and gums, in order to start a lifelong routine of good oral health.
Your child’s first visit will usually be brief and involve very little treatment. This encounter will act as a relationship building session for your child and their new dentist. The appointment usually covers the following:
- Checking teeth for decay
- Looking for any signs of oral issues
- Examining your child’s bite for any potential problems
- Parent education around dental health care and oral developmental issues
HELP! MY CHILD EATS A LOT OF SWEET FRUIT – IS THAT BAD FOR THEIR TEETH?
Most children love eating fruit – in fact, it’s a great snack choice and a valuable source of vitamins and nutrients for your child’s overall health and wellbeing.
Some fruits, however, can be high in acid. This high acid content in many fruits and juices can cause enamel to lose its high mineral content rendering it weak and prone to sensitivity and decay.
This erosion of enamel due to food acid is a slow process, however, can cause significant issues to the developing dentition in a child. To help protect your child’s teeth encourage them to chew and not suck acidic fruit, use straws when drinking fruit juice, rinse or drink a glass of water after eating fruit and always brush teeth twice daily.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD MY CHILD VISIT THE DENTIST?
The importance of building a confident and strong relationship between your child and their dentist can result in optimal oral health for the rest of your child’s life. Because of this, check-ups should be ideally scheduled regularly. We do not advocate six monthly for every child. Rather, we base it on risk factors. Some of our patients see us yearly while others three monthly. This ensures optimal monitoring of your child’s dental development and enables appropriate and timely intervention as required.
HOW CAN I MAKE DENTAL HYGIENE FUN FOR MY CHILD?
- Let children choose their own colour toothbrush
- Let children choose their favourite flavour of toothpaste
- Use a timer to make sure they brush their teeth for 2 minutes
- Reward children for proper oral care
- Make brushing a family affair
- Plan a fun activity following every visit to the dentist
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PAEDIATRIC DENTIST AND A GENERAL DENTIST?
Paediatric Dentistry is an age-defined specialty that provides both primary and comprehensive preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence, including those with special healthcare needs. Paediatric dentists are dental specialists that have completed an additional three years of training in managing children and their needs in a manner that makes them comfortable and at ease.
So, there you have it. Those are the most common questions we get asked by parents of young children, to help you support your child’s optimal oral health. To book your child’s next dentist appointment – click here.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics and to help begin the conversation with your children’s dentist. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care professional prior to incorporating this as part of your child’s diet or health regimen.