Good oral health is essential for our general health and wellbeing. Early childhood is the best time for children to learn habits which will last a life time and help them become healthy adults. Baby teeth are important for eating, talking and how children look. Baby teeth help shape the jaw and face and keep space for adult teeth to come through.
Dental decay in young children
Dental decay in young children is a serious chronic disease that can start as soon as the first tooth comes through the gum. Dental decay starts as small white spots or lines that can slowly become larger, turning yellow or brown and leading to large holes. If decay is not treated it may lead to infection, pain and swelling and eventually to early tooth loss. Children with dental decay may have pain causing them to have trouble eating, sleeping, talking and concentrating. It can be a serious condition that often requires time in hospital.
Bacteria (germs) that cause dental decay can be passed from a mother/father or carer to a child’s mouth on dummies, bottles and spoons. Utensils, such as spoons, should not be shared between a parent and child. It is very important to keep your own teeth and gums clean and healthy and to be a good role model for your child.
What can cause dental decay in young children?
- frequently eating sugary foods like cups cakes, biscuits, lollies, chocolate, muesli bars and fruit straps
- drinking sweet drinks like fruit juice, cordial and soft drinks
- putting a baby to bed with a bottle
- sucking or sipping on bottles or sippy cup all day with something sweet in it
- not cleaning or brushing teeth.
How to keep mouth, teeth and gums healthy for infants and young children
- Before your child starts getting teeth you can clean their gums using a clean, damp cloth.
- 4-18 months: As soon as your child’s first teeth appear, clean them using a child-sized soft toothbrush, without toothpaste.
- From 18 months of age, brush your child’s teeth twice a day with a small (smear) amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Children should spit out and not swallow the toothpaste.
- Do not rinse their mouth with water after brushing, this will allow the fluoride from the toothpaste to better protect their teeth.
- Help your child with brushing until they are eight years old.
- Make tooth brushing fun - play a song, use a timer or tooth brushing app.
- Children often go through stages of not wanting to brush. Establishing a routine will help them later in life.