The preschool years are wild and wonderful – full of exciting ‘firsts’ and many, many challenges. Your child is starting to be much more perceptive and independent, which makes this the perfect time to set a good example and instil great dental hygiene and healthy eating habits that will benefit them for life.
CARING FOR YOUR YOUNG CHILD'S TEETH
AND HOW TO PROMOTE GOOD ORAL HYGIENE
Video – Diet advice for children
Video – Decay prevention advice for parents and carers
You should reduce the use of a dummy when your little one starts talking, as dummies stop them from speaking properly. From the age of three, your child shouldn’t be using a dummy at all, as it can cause problems with the positioning of their teeth as they come in, increasing the need for braces later in life.
Probably. Most medicines for children come in syrup form, as it’s easier for them to swallow. And many, such as cough syrup, have glycerin (a form of sugar) as the main active ingredient. However, sugar-free alternatives are usually available. If in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist. It’s especially important to avoid sugary medicines if your child is taking a long-term treatment.
Many parents fall into the habit of bribing their children to behave, or rewarding good behaviour, with sweets. This is something that can be very difficult to stop once you’ve started, so it’s best never to start! Instead, choose healthier rewards such as a play in the park or reading a new book together. If there’s one thing children love more than sweets, it’s time with you!
By showing them of course! Brush your teeth while they’re brushing theirs and let them copy you. Guide their hand so they know what proper brushing technique feels like, and have them look in a mirror so they can see where to brush. Make sure you remember to brush morning and night for a full two minutes each time. You can even use a fun app to help keep time. You can also download these tooth brushing charts as a visual reminder – and a way of working towards a (healthy) reward. Include yourself in the tooth brushing chart too, so they can see that you’re doing it as often as they are.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to buy special children’s toothpaste for your kids. Up until age 6, a low-fluoride toothpaste is recommended, but make sure it has at least 1,000 parts per million (ppm) fluoride. From age seven they can use your fluoride toothpaste with 1,350-1,500 ppm. Use the following guidelines for how much toothpaste to put on their brush:
Age 0-3: Just a smear
Age 3-6: A pea-sized smear
Age 7 upwards: A pea-sized blob
Fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral, helps protect teeth from decay. For this reason, it is included in most toothpastes and in drinking water in most developed countries around the world. Fluoride, in the concentrations found in toothpaste and drinking water, is not dangerous. Children would be at greater risk if their teeth were allowed to decay, because this can lead to hospitalisation for extractions under general anaesthetic. In areas without water fluoridation, we encourage additional fluoride protection in the form of fluoride varnishes.
A fluoride varnish is a clear coating of fluoride that is painted onto your child’s teeth to protect them from decay. This is usually done if your child is at higher risk of tooth decay, for example because of diet or because you live in an area without water fluoridation. The process is quick and painless and carries no side-effects – except healthier teeth! It is usually done twice a year.
Children with special needs often have additional dental requirements to bear in mind. For example, children with Down’s syndrome and other genetic conditions can experience delays in their teeth coming in, or have crowded, misaligned or even missing teeth. Children with behavioural disorders might grind their teeth or have difficulty adhering to good dental hygiene. Being extra vigilant is critical to safeguarding their dental and general health. Your family dentist should be able to advise you on any recommended hygiene adjustments, based on your child’s individual circumstances, or you might be referred to seek the advice of a registered Special Needs Dentist.
Yes. We’ve asked around and here are a few things other parents say worked well – and others they regret!
- “My kids love it when I spend a little extra time reading with them, so I offer that as a reward for good behaviour, rather than sugary food. The result is they see spending special time with me as a treat – something I know will change when they are teenagers!”
- “I bought each of my children special electric toothbrushes, that play two minutes’ worth of their favourite song. I’m tired of hearing the tinny rendition of One Direction hits, but they’re not! And it means they keep brushing for the whole recommended time.”
- “My daughter has been coming with me to the dentist from when she was born, more out of necessity than anything, as I didn’t have childcare. The benefit is she’s not afraid of the dentist at all now and even looks forward to going for her check-ups.”
- “I read somewhere that Cheerios were a good snack for toddlers, as they have a hole in the middle so they can’t choke on them. But I never stopped to think about the sugar content and the fact that I was essentially training my kids to crave sweet treats.”
- “From the age of around 4 or 5, I stopped supervising my son’s tooth brushing. Now it’s a constant battle to get him to brush properly and for long enough.”
- “We used to let our little girl suck on a bottle of juice whenever she wanted. We thought juice was healthy and were pleased she liked it – we didn’t consider the damage to her teeth. She finished up in hospital having a rotten tooth pulled, which was a horrible experience for her and for us!”
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