Tooth decay is one of the most common dental issues among infants and children. Not only painful, a decayed tooth can lead to problems like infections, abscesses, jaw pains and even gastrointestinal disorders.
To help your child avoid developing tooth-ache causing cavities – small holes that develop on the outer surface of their teeth – you will need to pay careful attention to their food intake, teeth cleaning regimes and bringing them for regular dental checks.
Infants and baby teeth
The child’s teeth development begins in the mother’s womb, usually during the fifth gestation week. The strength of the baby’s milk teeth is dependent on the mother’s health and diet during this period.
Your child’s teeth will start to erupt at around six months of age. However, you can start introducing basic oral hygiene habits to your child even before the baby teeth’s arrival.
One of the most effective ways to let your baby get used to the sensation of teeth cleaning is to gently massage their gums. You can do this either with a special toothbrush for infants or finger cover.
At this stage, your baby is not accustomed to having a strange object in the mouth, and would normally resist or cry. Do not give up but persist with the gentle prodding, which can be best described as tickling the baby ivories.
Thankfully, most babies adapt quickly to gum massaging. The goal of this activity is to form healthy oral hygiene habits from a young age and reinforce the positive feelings in your child towards teeth cleaning.
By the time your child reaches 3 years of age, you can expect to see up to 20 milk teeth. The protective layer of your child’s milk teeth is thinner and not as developed as adult teeth. That’s why small toddlers are more prone to developing caries. It is therefore critical at this age that kids avoid eating too much sugary and starchy food.
Foods high in sugar or starch contain fermentable carbohydrates that can contribute to tooth decay. Parents would do well to limit the child’s intake of starchy foods like bread, rice and potato chips, in addition to the usual ‘naughty snacks’ like chocolates and lollies.
These types of food produce cavity-causing acids that give rise to bacterial infection and plague formation.
Instead of a strict ban, a gradual curb on unhealthy foods may be more effective. It’s important to instil the habit of brushing and flossing within 20 minutes of eating a snack or starchy food, because that’s the amount of time it takes before the cavity-causing acids start to kick in. Encourage your kids to drink lots of water as that will increase saliva flow, which in turn, helps to neutralise the acids in the mouth.
Brushing and flossing
As soon as the milk teeth arrive, you can immediately start your child on gentle tooth-brushing with fluoride toothpaste. You should use a tiny amount of the toothpaste – no more than the size of a grain of rice – on a baby-size toothbrush.
Even at this age, twice-daily brushing is recommended, if only to instill the habit from the start. You can increase the amount of toothpaste to a pea-size for children 3-6 years of age. Continue supervising the brushing activity until they are able to brush on their own. Flossing should only begin after the child has two teeth that touch.
Your child’s first dental visit
The first dental visit is recommended to take place within 6 months of the first tooth’s appearance – not later than the child’s first birthday. The baby’s first dental visit is mainly for an oral examination so that the dentist can look out for cavities, oral injuries or other issues.
Looking for a child-friendly Canberra dentist for your infant or toddler?
Book an appointment with our experienced, kid-friendly Canberra Dentist in Molonglo Valley – contact Molonglo Dental Surgery at 02 6287 1222.