A Guide To Good Oral Care For Children
Starting children off the right way should help them maintain healthy teeth and gums throughout their life
Depending on your age, you may have been given different advice about how to brush your teeth when you were children.
If you are fairly young, the advice might have been good, as knowledge and awareness around oral health is now much better than in the past. For those of a certain age though, it is far more likely that the guidance given was simply to brush your teeth so that you don’t get a toothache. This isn’t bad advice as such, but only really touches the surface.
Although it can be quite difficult at times, with younger children especially, a bit of perseverance on behalf of the parent can greatly improve the chances of avoiding unnecessary trips to the dentist, not only as a child, but throughout the rest of their life. Our Bedford children’s dentists offer some advice to help you throughout the various stages of their lives.
A new born baby usually has no teeth but that doesn’t mean that no care is required. Good gum health is important and will provide a good foundation for when their teeth eventually start to erupt. From about three months old, you should gently wipe your baby’s gums with a clean damp cloth as this will help to remove any bacteria that has collected there. Once their teeth start to come through, you can use a soft toothbrush especially designed for babies. You should also start to bring them to see us at The Dental Centre Bedford, from around the time of their first birthday.
This is a fun time for many parents but one that comes with its challenges as children start to develop their own character. You will still need to be in charge of looking after their teeth at this point, brushing their teeth for them with a fluoride based toothpaste to strengthen the enamel on their teeth. This can also be a time when they develop a taste for sweeter foods and drinks. Even popular ‘healthy’ options such as raisins and fruit drinks can be very harmful for their teeth; raisins for their high sugar content and ability to stick to teeth and fruit drinks for high sugar and acidity. Try to avoid these as far as possible and encourage more tooth friendly eating. Remember that if they go to a pre-school group, they could be eating anything, so continue to clean their teeth well, especially at night time.
Primary school age
By the time a child starts to go to school, you should be encouraging them to brush their own teeth. Don’t just show them how to do it and then walk away though. You will need to supervise them for some time until you are confident that they are doing it correctly. Even after this point, it is a good idea to check from time to time as brushing their teeth is not likely to be a high priority for them when there are other things to do. Also during this stage, try to keep them on a tooth-friendly diet as possible and also make sure that they see a dentist every six months or so for a check-up appointment, in order that we can monitor their oral health and intervene early where necessary.
This can be a very challenging time as children transition into adults. A general wider awareness of the world, combined with hormonal changes can make it feel as though we are losing some control over their lives. Slowly, we have to let go but it is still important to oversee their general wellbeing, and that includes their oral health. Depending on their age and general demeanour, a mixture of ‘bribes’ and discipline might be needed to get them to look after their teeth as they should.
Parents can help with this by providing healthy meals rather than allowing them to eat wherever they want as this will often be damaging to their teeth and gums. We can’t really supervise them brushing their teeth at this age but we can make sure that their toothbrushes are in good condition and replace them every three months or so. It certainly doesn’t hurt to ‘remind’ them to clean their teeth either as it is almost inevitable that a teenager’s focus will be elsewhere at this age. Finally, continue to take control over booking dental appointments for them even if it means bribing them to go. They may not appreciate it but will be grateful as they become older.
As our children go away to university or move somewhere else to live, we have to largely trust that the advice and guidance we have provided over the years will be sufficient for them to find their own way in life. It never hurts to remind them about looking after their teeth though during ‘phone calls. They may be rolling their eyes on the other end of the line, but it may also just jog their memory to do so!
Common problems such as tooth decay, as well as more complex ones like root canal infections can be prevented by good oral health care. Starting your kids off from a young age will really help them grow up with a strong and healthy set of teeth and gums. Remember too, that our Bedford dental team are always on hand for appointments and general oral care advice.
To contact us, please call The Dental Centre Bedford on 01234 819868.