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5 ways to look after your children’s teeth

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The vast majority of dental disease is preventable. By establishing good oral health habits in your child’s early years and into their teenage years, you can help ensure they do not suffer the ongoing impacts of dental disease later in life. Dr Erin Callahan presents, 5 ways to look after your children’s teeth.

How to ensure your kids are brushing their teeth correctly

Teeth should be brushed twice daily (after breakfast and before bed) with a pea-sized amount of age-appropriate fluoride toothpaste.

Once children can spit out well they are then safe to use an adult toothpaste. Soft-bristled tooth brushes are recommended, and make sure you select a toothbrush small enough for their mouth. Electric toothbrushes are an individual choice, but can make the task easier and can often increase motivation in young children.

As a guide parents should assist with tooth brushing until at least children can tie their own shoelaces! Supervision should continue until you are confident your child is brushing well and for the recommended two minutes daily.

When should my child floss?

Flossing is important from ‘as soon as the neighbouring teeth touch’.  This timing will vary between individual children but is generally earlier than you would expect.  Often the molars (back chewing teeth) will be contacting whilst the front teeth are still quite spaced.

In the early years parents will need to floss their children’s teeth. An easy way to do this is for the parent to sit on the couch, and the child to lay on the couch with their head on the parents lap, looking up to the ceiling. This gives much better access and visibility.  You can use regular string/tape floss, or some people prefer ‘easy-flossers’ which can be used single-handed and for some is easier to manage.  Children will often not have the manual skills to manage floss themselves until they are at least aged in the double digits.

Flossing should be performed once daily, and will help to prevent interproximal caries in baby and adult teeth, and prevent gum disease.  The anatomy of baby teeth is quite different to adult teeth, and the thinner enamel layer means that decay between teeth can progress much more rapidly in baby teeth. 

What foods are good for your teeth?

The modern diet and exposure to sugar plays a huge role in the levels of childhood tooth decay we now see. Hidden sugars are common in many processed foods, even a lot of savoury items. Frequency of exposure is more critical than the amount consumed. So from a dental perspective it is actually better to eat a lolly bag from a party in one sitting than to space it out by eating gradually over a whole day. 

Three main meals per day is advised with a healthy morning and afternoon snack. Healthy snack ideas include: cheese, nuts, chopped vegetables with dips such as hommus or tzatziki, plain popcorn, sushi, plain rice cakes or dry biscuits with peanut butter, vegemite or butter.

Beverages are a common contributor to childhood and adolescent tooth decay - from cordials, juices, flavoured milks, and sports drinks, to of course soft drinks.  Water should be the main beverage; plain milk is also acceptable with anything else being only occasionally consumed.

Protect from sports related dental injuries with a mouthguard

Traumatic dental injuries are often seen in childhood and adolescent years, not only from contact sports like football, but also many other ball sports and racquet sports.  We also commonly see dental injuries from activities such as cycling, skateboarding, scootering, and even occasionally horse-riding, swimming and surfing.

A custom-made, well-fitting mouth guard is a very sound investment to help protect your child’s teeth during higher-risk sporting activities. Whilst a store-bought mouthguard may save a few dollars in the short term, unfortunately we find they generally do not fit well, and will often be displaced at the time of impact, providing little to no protection. 

Benefits of regular dental check ups

Often dental disease will only be symptomatic in the later stages, and by that time it may be a far more complicated, stressful and costly issue to manage.  Regular dental examinations can help to detect dental problems in the early stages, so as to ensure more straightforward and successful treatment. The general recommendation is a dental examination every six months. Dental check-ups combined with regular preventative care, can help to keep your children’s teeth in the best possible condition.


Ask us for more ways to prevent dental disease at your next visit.

Dr Erin Callahan