8 Ways to Protect Your Child’s Teeth

Growing Children

You can keep your child from getting tooth decay by starting his dental care early. Follow these steps to prevent cavities and keep his beautiful smile healthy.

1. Get a Checkup

Your child should see a dentist by his first birthday. Early preventive care saves you money in the long run. A CDC report shows that dental care costs are nearly 40% lower over a 5-year period for children who see a dentist by age 5.

2. Teach Good Habits

Brushing is crucial from the get-go. Before your baby has teeth, you can gently brush his gums. Use water on a baby toothbrush, or clean them with a soft washcloth.

When your baby’s teeth appear, brush twice a day with an infant toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste.

Start flossing when two of his teeth touch each other. Ask your dentist about techniques and schedules.

Brush and floss just before bedtime. After that, don’t give your child any food or drink, except water, until the next morning.

Your dentist can suggest when your child should start using mouthwash. You’ll need to wait until he knows how to spit it out.

3. Avoid ‘Baby Bottle Decay’

Don’t put your infant or older child down for a nap with a bottle of juice, formula, or milk. Sugary liquids cling to his teeth, feeding bacteria that can cause tooth decay.

If you must give your child a bottle to take to bed, make sure it contains only water.

4. Cut Back on Juice

Many parents think juice is a healthy daylong choice for a drink, but it can lead to tooth decay.

Limit your child to no more than 4 ounces a day of 100% fruit juice. Give non-sugary drinks and foods at mealtimes, and use juice only as a treat.

5. Control the Sippy Cup

A sippy cup can help kids move from a bottle to a glass, but don’t let him drink from it all day long. Using it too much can lead to decay on the back of the front teeth if the drinks are sugary.

6. Ditch the Pacifier by Age 2 or 3

There are lots of good reasons to let your child use a pacifier, but in the long term, it can affect how his teeth line up. It can also change the shape of the mouth.

Talk to your doctor if he’s still using a pacifier past age 3.

7. Watch Out for Sweet Medicine

Children’s medications can be flavored and sugary. If they stick on the teeth, the chance of cavities goes up. Children on medications for chronic conditions such as asthma and heart problems often have a higher decay rate.

Antibiotics and some asthma medications can cause an overgrowth of candida (yeast), which can lead to a fungal infection called oral thrush. Signs are creamy, curd-like patches on the tongue or inside the mouth.

Talk to your dentist about how often to brush if your child is taking long-term medications. It could be as often as four times a day.

8. Stand Firm on Brushing, Flossing, and Rinsing

If your kid puts up a fuss when it comes time to brush, floss, and rinse, don’t let him off the hook. Make it clear he doesn’t have a choice.

Some tips to coax your reluctant child to brush on his own or get your little one to let you help:

Be patient. Kids can start brushing their teeth with help from a grownup around 2 or 3. But they may not be ready to go it alone until about age 6. And it can take until around age 10 until children perfect their flossing skills.

Don’t wait until late in the day. If your child is tired, you may not get much cooperation with brushing, flossing, and rinsing. So start before it’s too close to bedtime.

5 steps to protect your baby’s smile

Healthy teeth = a healthy smile.

Follow these 5 steps to protect your child’s smile:

  1. Brush teeth twice a day.
  2. Have regular dental check-ups.
  3. Lift the lip every month to check for signs of tooth decay (holes).
  4. Choose healthy snacks.
  5. Drink water or milk.

Brush teeth twice a day

Most of your child’s first teeth will come through by about 2 years of age. These ‘baby’ teeth will help your child to eat and speak well. Healthy baby teeth usually mean healthy adult teeth too, so it’s essential that you look after your child’s first teeth.

Look after your child’s first teeth by brushing them twice a day – after breakfast and before bed. You may find it easier to stand behind your child and gently tilt their head back as you brush. Use a small toothbrush with soft bristles and a smear of regular-strength fluoride toothpaste.

Brush your child’s teeth for 2 minutes:

  • all around the inside surfaces, where the teeth meet the gums, and also the top chewing surfaces
  • on the front of the teeth, brushing in tiny circles all around the outside surfaces, close to the gums

Teach your child to spit out the left-over toothpaste after brushing. Don’t rinse with water, because a small amount of fluoride toothpaste left around the teeth will help to protect them.

Regular dental check-ups

Your child is eligible for free check-ups from an oral health service. It’s important to enroll your child with the service as early as possible so that you can arrange the first check-up. Regular check-ups of your child’s teeth increase the chances of finding and treating any tooth decay (holes) early.

To enroll in a service or to make an appointment, phone 0800 TALK TEETH (0800 825 583). Your dental therapist will tell you how often your child should have a check-up.

If your child accidentally bumps their teeth, take them to a dental therapist in the Community Oral Health Service or a dentist, even if the teeth still look all right.

Lift the lip

Gently lift your child’s top lip once a month to check inside their mouths. It’s a quick and easy way to see if tooth decay is present.

You can read about tooth decay and what to look for You can read about tooth decay and what to look for on the Plunket website.

Choose healthy snacks

Healthy eating = healthy teeth. To protect your child’s teeth, give them low-sugar snacks between meals such as fruit, fresh vegetables, yogurt, and other dairy foods. Foods that are high in sugar can damage your child’s teeth and cause tooth decay.

Drink water or milk

The best drinks for your child’s teeth are water and milk. Do not give your child drinks that have natural or added sugar, such as fruit juice, cordial, fizzy drinks, flavored milk, and chocolate drinks.

We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.