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Healthy teeth are essential to a healthy childhood. Your child needs them for chewing, speaking clearly and having a great smile. They also help guide the adult teeth into position. So, as a parent you can play the most important role in your child’s own dental health. Begin the habit of teeth cleaning as soon as the first teeth appear.
Show you care about your own dental health and they will follow. Set a good example with your own habits, be the cheerleader, and your child will keep enthusiastic and motivated. They will learn to love the ritual, your interest, the super feeling of a clean mouth and their brilliant smile. Praise goes a long way.
Tooth decay (holes) and gum disease are preventable, yet 47% of New Zealand’s five year olds have holes in their teeth. Your child does not need to be part of these statistics.
To help prevent tooth decay teach your child to brush her teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste in the morning and before bed. For the first 3-4 years, you will need to be doing most of the cleaning. Make a game of it; let your child brush your teeth, take turns and remember generally children under the age of eight will need help brushing their teeth.
Be very gentle when brushing their teeth; use a small, soft bristle brush with an easy hold handle. One of the easiest ways to brush is to sit the smaller child on your lap. As she gets older continue to approach cleaning from behind. That toothbrush will soon be well used so look to replace it when it begins to show signs of wear – before it is dog-eared.
Fluoride is naturally occuring and has been proven to be beneficial to teeth. It helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens teeth. We get fluoride from toothpaste, supplements and fluoridated tap water.
Before brushing place a smear of fluoridated toothpaste on the toothbrush. Teach your child to spit out and not swallow or rinse after cleaning. Low-fluoride children’s toothpastes have not been shown to be as effective in preventing decay and are not currently recommended in New Zealand.
Begin the habit of teeth cleaning as soon as the first teeth appear.
If your tap water is not fluoridated, your child is at greater risk of decay and because we try to minimise toothpaste swallowing they may miss out on the benefits of swallowing fluoride brings to developing teeth. You can make your own fluoridated water by dissolving fluoride tablets in water.
Without a doubt, these early days are so important. Begin now with healthy time choices. Resist giving your child sugary foods and drinks, especially between meals. Give them healthy snacks like bread, cheese and fruit and keep those sweet treats for meal times only.
Tooth decay is caused by the bacteria in plaque (a colourless sticky film constantly forming on teeth) using the sugars in food and drink to produce a tooth destructive acid. Drinks and food that are acidic will also contribute to tooth decay, so keep clear of fizzy drinks and undiluted fruit drinks. In particular, avoid frequent snacking on sweet or acidic food or drink.
The only safe drink at night is water. Many other drinks can cause severe tooth decay in infants. As soon as it is practical teach your child to drink from a cup or with a straw.
As soon as your child turns one enrol him at the local school dental clinic and organise a visit to the school dental therapist. This is a free service that can provide you and your child with care and advice.